Posted by: Brad Nixon | March 7, 2016

Aural Safety Edition

I was using my big shop vacuum this weekend. It’s one noisy appliance: to the point of pain.

I wore these:

IMG_2921 Brad Nixon

Those are earplugs.

Cost? A pack of three or four will cost you a couple of bucks at the hardware store. They don’t stop all noise, but they deaden a lot of the most damaging frequencies. They’re invaluable for protecting your hearing.

There are alternatives. Take these, for instance:

IMG_2923 - Brad Nixon

Those are hearing aids. You can get those if you don’t protect your hearing via earplugs and taking other precautions.

They are spectacularly sophisticated. Once the audiologist analyzes a person’s hearing, she uses computer software that programs the devices to correct each audio frequency band to match whatever deficiencies the person has — individually for each ear.

They have multiple settings to accommodate regular conversation, noisy conversation as in a car, very noisy conditions like a restaurant, and even for a concert hall, to name a few.

They communicate with one another wirelessly when you select program or audio level in one unit or the other. They have a five-word vocabulary to tell you if the battery’s low and which of the four above-mentioned settings they’re on. Because it’s just software, you can even choose to have them speak in a wide variety of languages.

If you like geeky stuff, they’re Bluetooth-enabled so that you can receive your cell phone calls in them or even play your guitar or keyboard into them if you have a wireless adapter for your axe.

Great, eh?

Oh yes, they’re slightly more expensive than the earplugs: about $5,000 – $6,000.

It’s your choice. Most humans start losing some of their hearing in their 30s, but some of us help the process considerably through exposure to loud noise, especially high-frequency sound. Other things, including viral infections, accidents and genetics can play a role. While you can’t always protect yourself against some of those causes, the most common contributor to excessive or early hearing loss is too damned much loud noise.

The alternative is to use ear protection whenever you’re around loud things like power tools, don’t turn up your music too loud, and if your lead guitarist has an amp that STARTS on 11, fire him, today. If you work in an environment full of nasty noise — like an auto repair shop or a political campaign — make it a rule that everyone wears ear protection. If you know someone who does, lay down the law with them. They should be required to do it, and so should everyone who works there.

Those are, in fact, my hearing aids, courtesy of many years of power tools, loud music, perhaps some genetics, too. I am speaking to you from experience. I write some funny articles in this blog, but I’m not kidding about this. Being a musician and a media producer and losing one’s hearing isn’t a laughing matter.

You can spend a couple of bucks now, and be prudent in exposing yourself to noise, or you can wait and get some groovy techno-devices in a few years. I’m sure they’re coming up with exciting new features all the time.

You can hear what I’m saying now, but maybe not later.

© Brad Nixon 2016



  1. Nicely said. A key area of life-changing damage that can be prevented or mitigated. Listen up, everyone — while you still can.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps it’s good genetics, but I’ve always had extremely acute hearing. Sometimes I think it’s not such a blessing, as when I can clearly hear conversations a good 30′ away that I would rather not hear. Imagine, an old geezer at 65 with hearing this good. At least some things are still in working order! 😃👍


  3. Excellent advice! Ear plugs are also good to limit tinnitus – or ringing in the ears. My experience with tinnitus is that when younger, following exposure to very loud noise [a Jethro Tull concert from the front row for example] the ringing would last a few days at most – then be gone. For me at 53 or so, following a particularly loud band at a wedding reception, the ringing never went away. Further, it can be exacerbated by new exposure [for example attending Indianapolis Colts games – or even long exposure to a high performance motor and road noise when driving a convertible] which will cause the ringing to become and stay louder. So protect against hearing loss and protect against – a chronic and annoying at best or debilitating at worst – tinnitus problem.


    • Thanks for that. Tinnitus isn’t commonly talked about, and is an extremely unhappy hearing problem.


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