Music teachers protect your years! If you are a musician or a music teacher, this video contains CRUCIAL information that you need in order to protect your long-term hearing. Music teachers like you need to protect your ears!
It goes without saying that our ears are our careers, so it is crucial that we take care of these precious body parts. Once you damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back, so it is really important to be mindful of what we are exposing them to.
I was having ear troubles, teaching loud music theater singers in a small studio with a loud piano. I was having some ringing in my ear, which was very troubling to me. My room was quite resonant, which meant that my ears were being exposed to a lot of sound bouncing around all the flat surfaces in my piano.
1. Get your studio sound treated
When the problem became unbearable, I asked around to some sound engineers and it was suggested that I have my studio acoustically treated. I had professional sound treatment panels made by a company in CT (Check out realtraps.com.) I sent the company a picture of my studio and they advised me where to put the panels for optimal effect.
To absorb some of the loudness of the piano, I took a large piece of thick rubbery fabric and duct taped it to the back of my piano. This material absorbs some of the excess bounce, so that I am able to hear a full piano sound without a lot of echo and reverb. I then covered my hardwood floors with a rugs and padding that cover 95% of the floor, and two long curtain panels in the window. The result is that I have a much “deader,” “dryer” space, which allows me to hear clearly without a lot of excess reverb.
One interesting observation I made was that after the room was sound treated, I felt a lot less tired after a long teaching day, and experienced much fewer headaches.
2. Use ear plugs to protect your ears
If you are unable to sound treat your space, or if you are working with extremely loud singers (Broadway belters, and Wagnerian tenors anyone?), then you should use ear plugs. Every musician should have custom earplugs made by a qualified audiologist. The pair that I have is specially designed to reduce the volume of all of the frequencies of sound, rather than just the high or low frequencies. The cheap foam ones tend to muffle the sound, but my custom ones actually give me an accurate picture of the live sound, it’s just a lot louder.
Want some good ear plug recommendations? Read this article.
3. Change the direction of the singer/instrumentalist
Another great way to save your ears is to change the direction the singer is facing so that they sound doesn’t go directly into my ear. Thing about it: having the singer pointing directly at your ear is like sitting with your ear against someone’s guitar amp. If I’m working with a singer and they are doing a lot of loud singing, I have them face their body away from me, so that the sound isn’t going directly into my ear.
One other rule I have is that if my student forgets their music, they are never allowed to look over my shoulder at my music. This literally points their singing directly into my ear, which could do some serious damage! Instead, I have them look up the lyrics on their phone so they can sing from a distance.
4. Ear protection with headphones
If you are teaching via Zoom you listen to music while you practice, you need to be mindful of volume. Headphones can do serious damage to your ears if you are not careful. Experiment with finding a mid level volume where you can hear, but it is not so loud that it could hurt your ears.
The first step is to make sure you have a decent quality headphone. Poor quality headphones will not present the sound properly, which means you might end up cranking up the volume to hear the bass. Bass heavy headphones can also make it more difficult to hear the vocals clearly, which might also lead to you cranking up the volume.
Another good idea while wearing headphones while teaching or practicing, is to have one headphone on and one headphone off. This will ensure that you can still hear yourself, which will prevent you from straining your voice to hear yourself.
5. Have regular hearing tests
Every musician and music teacher needs to have hearing screenings regularly to ensure that they are not experiencing hearing loss. Ear problems do not always come with pain or ringing – you can be suffering from hearing loss and not immediately know about it. Developing a relationship with an ENT – ear, nose and throat doctor and audiologist will help to make sure that you keep your hearing in tip top shape.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone
Once you damage your hearing, there is no getting it back. Whether you are a singing teacher, a trombone teacher, a pianist or a general music teacher, you need to protect your ears!
This article is taken from Piano Skills for Singers, Level 2 – my #1 bestselling course of all time! Learn more about it at The Versatile Musician membership page.