Posted by: worshipguitarguy | August 7, 2006

Protect Your Ears

chu.jpgThe following post comes from Jon Chu, who plays violin with Todd Agnew.  I can’t stress how important hearing protection is for us guitarists.  I have hearing loss in certain frequency ranges from playing many years without protection.


Ok…so i was doing some research on decibel levels aka dB levels.  I’m an advocate of proper concert attending which entails bringing ear plugs with you.  While i was looking at some new earplugs, i came across this chart. 

At your average rock concert, aka Todd Agnew concert, we average about 100 dB – 120 dB, if you notice that on the chart, that’s the equivalent of holding a chain saw without ear protection.  The recommended amount of time to spend in that dB environment is 2 hours according to OSHA.  Any good logger would know that you don’t hold a chain saw for that long, not running for two hours straight at least, without some type of ear protection.  So why would you subject your poor ears to that torture for that long at a concert?  Please don’t!  If you’re a fan of going to rock shows, WEAR EAR PLUGS!  I wear mine at 99% of the shows we play and 100% if the ones i attend.  (99% because sometimes situations arise where i can’t hear my monitor so i have to take it out)

When choosing earplugs, you want ones that will, ideally, block the most amount of dB.  This allows you to stay in a loud environment longer.  But i know there are people out there that say, “But Jonathan, you don’t ENJOY a concert with those big puffy foam earplugs in your ears.”  I’ll have to agree with you on that one.  That’s why there are these fancy schmancy ear plugs called “musicians’ ear plugs” that don’t block a lot, but block enough of the right stuff.  You can find them here at The Ear Plug Store.  (specifically the Etymotic ER-20  they are amazing)

I thought it was interesting that the violin, because it sits next to your head, is at it’s loudest a 92dB.  No wonder my left ear is not good!  I had that thing next to my head for WAY over 6 hours a day when i was in college…like twice that.  Crazy…

taken from 

Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, that help one to understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise

Weakest sound heard 0dB
Normal conversation (3-5′) 60-70dB
Telephone dial tone 80dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
Train whistle at 500′ 90dB
Subway train at 200′ 95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 – 95dB
Power mower 107dB
Power saw 110dB
Pain begins 125dB
Pneumatic riveter at 4′ 125dB
Jet engine at 100′ 140dB
Death of hearing tissue 180dB
Loudest sound possible 194dB
OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB
Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
Imperceptible Change 1dB
 Barely Perceptible Change 3dB
Clearly Noticeable Change 5dB
About Twice as Loud 10dB
About Four Times as Loud 20dB
Sound Levels of Music
Normal piano practice 60 -70dB
Fortissimo Singer, 3′ 70dB
Chamber music, small auditorium 75 – 85dB
Piano Fortissimo 84 – 103dB
Violin 82 – 92dB
Cello 85 -111dB
Oboe 95-112dB
Flute  92 -103dB
Piccolo 90 -106dB
Clarinet 85 – 114dB
French horn 90 – 106dB
Trombone 85 – 114dB
Tympani & bass drum 106dB
Walkman on 5/10 94dB
Symphonic music peak 120 – 137dB
Amplifier rock, 4-6′ 120dB
Rock music peak 150dB


  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occurred.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin , M.Sc., Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada. There were some conflicting readings and, in many cases, authors did not specify at what distance the readings were taken or what the musician was actually playing. In general, when there were several readings, the higher one was chosen.



  1. Hmmmm… that Chu guys seems to know what he’s talking about. Wonder when he got so smart. 😉

    Hope some people actually paid attention to this one, even if they dislike the idea of ear plugs.

  2. Another thing to mention is when using in ear monitors. PLEASE…use both of them and not just one ear. The best way to explain why is to try this expirement. Put one earpiece in your ear and turn the volume to a comfortable level. Now, do this carefully but, place the other ear piece in your ear. Loud wasnt it?! So please…for your ears sake…use both ear pieces.

  3. Great point Ramon, to add to it even using IEM’s doesn’t necessarily protect your hearing. Using them properly means MAKING SURE your earbuds have a good seal in your ear canals, and keeping the volume coming from your system at a decent level.

  4. I agree Gerry. Earplugs are what…50 cents a pair!?!?!? Unfortunatly ears are PRICELESS! (You can’t buy new ones.) 🙂

  5. I am concerned about the volume levels of the worship music at my church, so I’ve been researching the subject and found this article. I am finding a lot of similar advice–wear ear plugs when at a concert. Even the band itself advising people to wear ear plugs. Um….if the band and the sound guys KNOW the decibel levels are damaging, why not turn the volume down?! Why does the industry amplify the volume to such high levels? I feel like I’m missing some critical piece of information because it seems like the sound guy could just pull a master slider down a notch or two. Seeking to understand, Troy

  6. Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

    This is very informative

    Fabian Dobney

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