Friday, January 17, 2020

A message to all you photographers - Protect your ears!

Last month I had an in-depth hearing test at an audiologists office. I sat in the soundproof chamber and strained to hear the high-pitched tones being sent into the headphones, As I sat there, I kept thinking about all the loud environments I have been subjected to during my photography career.

I have photographed a lot of personal events with the DJ or band cranking out their music at very high levels. And, of course, the best shooting position is usually up on the stage, right in front of the loudspeakers. I have photographed NASCAR, Indy and World Rally Car races and did not wear any ear protection. And yes, I have been known to listen to the music in my car and on my headphones at levels that are a bit extreme.

All of this has added up over the years and taken a toll on my hearing. When I saw the test results, I was shocked at how much of my hearing I have lost.  And to make things worse, the audiologist told me that once you lose hearing, you cant get it back.

The audiologist said that I could get custom made earplugs or I could spend a lot less and order earplugs called Eargasms for approximately $40. These are small earplugs which fit into the ear and cut up to 21db of sound, but still allow me to communicate with people. I was sold right away and ordered two sets before I set foot out of the doctor's office.

A week later I was shooting a reception with a live band and I was acutely aware of the volume level. I reached into my bag and inserted the Eargasms into my ears. I took a couple of seconds to insert them and remove them to compare the volume levels. It was dramatic. I then grabbed my camera and continued my job, feeling better that I was doing something to protect what is left of my hearing.


These Eargasms are really small and inexpensive, so there is no reason not to use them. Each set comes with a standard and a smaller sized set of shells. There is a small filter which you can move between the different shells if need be. When I put them in my ear, it is really hard for anyone to see that they are there.

What I liked about these products is that they are designed to reduce the overall volume but not cancel out the experience. They were designed for people who might be using them at a concert, wanting to hear the music but at a lower level. For me, as a working photographer, these let me cut the sound level during a party, while still being able to interactive with the attendees.  I also like that they come with a little cylinder to hold them, which can easily be stashed in my camera bags.

I now have one set in each camera bag, and am so thankful for this.

I know that, for me, damage has already been done. But at least I can try to prevent any more from happening from this point on. And with this blog post, maybe I can help others as well.

If you want to purchase some of these Eargasms for yourself, you can find them HERE.

I wish that I had done this 15 years ago!

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1 comment:

Bob F. said...

Your post reminded me of a TV station I worked at in the early 1970's. We did a local version of "Soul Train," and the bands were so loud that the music caused microphonic vibrations in the camera's vidicon tubes. You could actually "see" the sound in the form of dark and light bands in the picture. I've often wondered if the musicians have any hearing left!