Can I drum with backing tracks and not lose my hearing?

AndeeT

Senior Member
I've been drumming with in-ear-monitors for four years now and my hearing is slowly, but surely getting worse.

I've been extremely careful since age 14 (now 28), always wearing earplugs to band practice (was a guitarist back then) and to gigs and clubs. I started drums 6 years ago and started using in-ear monitors 4 years ago to play along with recorded music and click tracks.

My ears have always been sensitive but have always recovered from acute ringing.

Four years ago I purchased 1964 ears V2 custom moulded in-ear-monitors to play drums along to click-tracks and mp3's and after a year I noticed the beginnings of tinnitus when I went to bed. It got progressively worse until I ditched those in-ear monitors for some Shure ones (SE215). The Shure are universal and much cheaper in comparison to the 1964 ears but (in my opinion) isolate much better.

Unfortunately, my tinnitus is still progressing. I realise that it is progressive and irreversible disease/condition but I at least hoped I could make it not worsen.

Even with these professional monitors, I have always turned the music/click up much louder than when I am listening to music away from the drum kit. Otherwise I can't hear the music/click properly and fall out of time. This is no doubt the cause of my hearing problems.....but I figured that the was the best solution.....so others must be in my same position? I have even started wearing gun-muffs over the top of my in-ear monitors but this doesn't allow me to turn the volume down, sadly.

Is there a way to hear backing tracks and play drums, without having to turn up the volume? For everyday listening, my iphone is on the 'second' volume level (out of 16), if I am walking outside, and on 'one' out of 16 if I am at home and it is quiet. For playing drums to music, it needs to be on a minimum of 6 out of 16 and usually bumped up to 8 for quieter tracks.

I can't see a way out of this problem, without ditching click tracks and backing tracks all together.....but I feel these hints are required for modern music, and the music that I love (rock and metal)

Kind regards,

Andy
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I try not to have anything blasting directly into my ear. Playing with recordings I use earplugs and over the ear headphones-- not noise-cancelling, not isolating-- and I keep one can off my ear. If everything has to go through ear plugs, you should be protected.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Hi Andy,

The real key is isolation. It sounds as though you have to turn up the volume in your headsets due to the drums being to loud. I'm not sure why this would be the case with in ears, unless you don't feel comfortable, unless the music is blaring. I've never used anything more sophisticated than noise isolation earbuds. Usually with better than factory tips for better isolation and have neve experienced ringing after hours of drumming. I started in the 80s with the old style headphones. In those days, I stuff earplugs in, then put the cans over them and crank them up. Still no ringing, but in either scenario, there's been no real definition to the drums themselves.

It has saved my hearing and I'm currently 51. Once I picked up a mic, I've been using it to hear my drums clearly through the mix, but volume still stays at a comfortable level. Perhaps you can try a mic and lower the volume?
 

AndeeT

Senior Member
Hi,

Thanks for your replies.

Toddbishop; I haven't tried it 'that way round', with normal foam earplugs and headphones playing music over the top of those. Maybe this could be better for me as in-ear monitors clearly don't work that well for me. Will any cans do? The logic seems sound.

AzHeat- I always make sure I have a solid seal with my in-ear monitors. I'm not sure that a microphone would help. I have the opposite problem; my drums are too loud and the backing track is too quiet.

Kind regards,

Andy
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Hi,


AzHeat- I always make sure I have a solid seal with my in-ear monitors. I'm not sure that a microphone would help. I have the opposite problem; my drums are too loud and the backing track is too quiet.

Kind regards,

Andy
Which is why I believe you are not getting a great seal with your in-ears. I can hear some banging through my earbuds, but no hats or ride. Some crash, but that's it. I use the mic to mix in some of the drums, so I can tell what I'm doing.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
Your music source plus a mic on the drums, fed into a mixer of some sort, fed to your in-ears or earbuds, with a heavy duty set of shooting muffs over the top will get you the quietest possible combination for playing along to tracks, in my experience. You can set the volume really low and still hear everything.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
... I ditched those in-ear monitors for some Shure ones (SE215). The Shure are universal and much cheaper in comparison to the 1964 ears but (in my opinion) isolate much better.
Hi Andy, I'm not familiar with the 1964 in-ears, but I took a look at the Shure, and that model doesn't have very good isolation, I don't care what the rating says. It claims up to 37db, and if true, you'd barely be able to hear your drums at all.

As a drummer, you have to start with real molds to protect your hearing, not foam or rubber earpiece adapters. You get what you pay for, and unfortunately, you'll be paying with your hearing, which is precious, and priceless. When it's gone, it's gone. When you lose the highs, they won't come back. You're kind of young to be having problems, all the more reason you need to take action now. Not the beginning of next year, not after Labor Day, but on Monday, June 19. Tomorrow, Saturday, if possible.

Go to an audiologist who makes impressions for in-ears (same as hearing aids I suppose) and 1) get your hearing tested, and 2) get impressions made. They'll give them to you right there, and you can send them to a specialized in-ear monitor company such as JH Audio (that's what I use), Ultimate Ears, or Sensaphonics (I think they specialize in silicone molds rather than hard plastic.)

Once you're set up with better ear protection, turn the volume down. You won't need it very loud to overcome the little bit of acoustic drum leakage. If you're not hearing your drums very well, that's good! Set up a mic to feed them into your mix, at a reasonable level of course. You really don't need anything to be loud, as long as the balance is good.

But basically do whatever you need to in order to halt further damage. You think in-ears are expensive? There is NO amount of money that will fix your hearing.

Bermuda
 

hippy chip

Silver Member
I was that guy who was standing in front of of the speakers at the AC/DC and Black Sabbath concerts back in the '80s---my hearing is fine---blasting your ears at point-blank range is the problem :( Throw away those damn earbuds!
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
I play along to drumless tracks from my phone and I keep the volume pretty low, how exactly are you running everything into your ears?

I have a little mixer and I plug my phone into one channel and have the volume on the ipod around 70-80%, I put an sm57 as an overhead mic over my head pointing down at the kit and I can keep the volume from my mixer pretty low as long as I'm not getting a lot of cymbal in the mic. I've noticed that when I try to run numerous mics on my kit (2 overheads, kick, snare, etc) I tend to run the drum volume louder and have to run the ipod/phone/click track louder to compensate and the overall volume is too loud.

I also got a set of large sized foam inserts which provide a better fit for my in ears which gives me better isolation. Here's an Amazon link to the ones I got, you'll have to figure out which models fit your particular in ears.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MRUXED6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
Also, stop listening to music incessantly with in-hear monitors. There is going to be an epidemic of people with hearing loss in about ten years. EVERYONE is walking around listening to music on their smartphone with earbuds, or even sitting at work with them on. ENOUGH already! Give your ears a break! Use loudspeakers whenever possible. And when using headphones or earbuds, keep the level as low as possible, and listen for the shortest duration possible.

As for playing with backing tracks, try playing with other musicians instead of tracks. And wear hearing protection when you do it.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
...My ears have always been sensitive but have always recovered from acute ringing....
If you are experiencing ringing, you are doing damage.

I have family members who are audiologists, who expressed concern that I don't wear hearing protection when I play. However, I am not a heavy hitter, and my bandmates don't go in for volume wars.

The info I received from my tame audiologists is that if you are experiencing ringing or any other auditory artefacts, you are damaging your hearing.
 

picodon

Silver Member
No ringing means you HAVE DAMAGED your hearing.
You ARE DAMAGING your hearing when you still think all goes well and play unprotected.

Jeez man don't take the risk, there are SO many who regret it.
 

CYP

Senior Member
Man just seeing Bermuda say this hear I know I need to be better about this. I've been doing a lot of recording with just studio headphones, turned up pretty loud to be able to hear the track and my drums well enough. I should probably invest in some real in-ears, or least wear earplugs under the headphones via Todd... but I find that makes it hard to hear the track well enough!
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Thsoe 64's should have had good isolation.

I just got some custom ultimate ear 5's and I can't believe he or click into it also.. This way I have control over my drum volume with the mics, and everything else. I am able to keep ALL the volumes low and not be causing damage.

With regular ear buds the ambient drums would come threw so much I would have to keep turning up and up to hear the click/tracks Then I start hitting harder and it becomes a vicious circle.

To me it sounds like your customs maybe had a bad seal and were letting in to much ambient sound. When the seal is off too you lose all the low end.

Did you use a bit block while making the ear impressions?

You could always put a set of gun range hearing protection (or some vic firth type cans ) over top of your in ears for extra isolation

It's also a good way to learn to play quiet. If you can't hear the backing track play quiet rather than turn it up.. Helps with the dynamics. You could also try using some extra moongel, cymbal mutes, practice pad just to keep the drums from ringing less.
 

MJD

Silver Member
Hi Andy, I'm not familiar with the 1964 in-ears, but I took a look at the Shure, and that model doesn't have very good isolation, I don't care what the rating says. It claims up to 37db, and if true, you'd barely be able to hear your drums at all.

As a drummer, you have to start with real molds to protect your hearing, not foam or rubber earpiece adapters. You get what you pay for, and unfortunately, you'll be paying with your hearing, which is precious, and priceless. When it's gone, it's gone. When you lose the highs, they won't come back. You're kind of young to be having problems, all the more reason you need to take action now. Not the beginning of next year, not after Labor Day, but on Monday, June 19. Tomorrow, Saturday, if possible.

Go to an audiologist who makes impressions for in-ears (same as hearing aids I suppose) and 1) get your hearing tested, and 2) get impressions made. They'll give them to you right there, and you can send them to a specialized in-ear monitor company such as JH Audio (that's what I use), Ultimate Ears, or Sensaphonics (I think they specialize in silicone molds rather than hard plastic.)

Once you're set up with better ear protection, turn the volume down. You won't need it very loud to overcome the little bit of acoustic drum leakage. If you're not hearing your drums very well, that's good! Set up a mic to feed them into your mix, at a reasonable level of course. You really don't need anything to be loud, as long as the balance is good.

But basically do whatever you need to in order to halt further damage. You think in-ears are expensive? There is NO amount of money that will fix your hearing.

Bermuda
I've been wearing hearing aids since i was 5 years old. Most hearing aids nowadays have an automatic feature which ramps the volume down when you end up in a very loud situation but amplify just enough so that the sound is still clear. Of course if you turn the hearing aids off they are the most perfectly fitted earplugs you can buy. The auto volume adjustment is probably why i haven't had any change in my hearing in the 25 years since i started wearing them despite being around loud music a very large percentage of the time. Of course wearing hearing aids means that i can't use in ear monitors. Good hearing aids are about $6,000 a pair but totally worth the price. Going to an audiologist is a very important step in addressing your problem. You probably are not at the point where you do need hearing aids yet but double checking is always a good idea.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I've been doing a lot of recording with just studio headphones, turned up pretty loud to be able to hear the track and my drums well enough.
Good isolation phones are a smart investment, and considerably less expensive than molded in-ears. The only possible concern would be vanity while performing, but in a studio or rehearsal situation, 'looks' really shouldn't matter.

All of these phones have great isolation, but the difference in price has to do with sound quality. Vic Firth is the least expensive, and has passable sound. Extreme Isolation phones sound somewhat better, but aren't high fidelity (I tried them a dozen years ago, and the supposedly improved model just 2 years ago, did not like them.) The most expensive, and in my opinion the best sounding, are the GK-Music Ultraphones. They're $220, which is really not that expensive, but a lot of drummers will 'settle' for the Extreme Isolation phones at almost $100 less. Well, you actually do get what you pay for with both phones, and I don't know why anyone wouldn't want the best fidelity. Although I've stopped using them on stage (for logistical reasons only, they still sound better than my in-ears at 6x the price!) I still use them exclusively in the studio.

Regardless which phones are used, there's one common aspect to successful isolation: you can't have a bunch of hair - it doesn't allow the earcups to make the necessary seal for blocking outside sounds. Very short hair (my situation), or none at all, is ideal for isolation. Otherwise, don't spend the money on any of them, in-ears are going to be the best solution.

Bermuda
 

cutaway79

Silver Member
Ultimate Ears custom molded in-ear monitors... Not cheap (around a grand when I got them), but like others here have said, you get what you pay for. For what it's worth, I got them about 15 years ago, and they're still going strong. Had to replace the cord once about 5 years ago, and they gave it to me for free.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Andee, what does the click itself sound like? Is it that bright, annoying, high-pitched wood block sound? Or maybe that f-ing awful ProTools click tone? If so, try swapping click sounds for an MPC-type sound that is much darker and mellower. Listening to a high-pitched click for hours on end is bound to give you problems.

Ultimate Ears custom molded in-ear monitors... Not cheap (around a grand when I got them), but like others here have said, you get what you pay for. For what it's worth, I got them about 15 years ago, and they're still going strong. Had to replace the cord once about 5 years ago, and they gave it to me for free.
+1. The "vent" option is worth the extra cost as well. You can still hear some of the ambient noise from the drums/band, and that is nice. Or, you can plug them up for high-volume gigs that require maximum isolation. Or, add over-the-ear protection of some kind.

Are you able to control the volume of the click independently? Can you adjust the volume of the track without affecting the click? What about the volume of the rest of the mix (i.e. drums and/or the rest of the band)? Hopefully you have a small mixer next to you so that you have good control over your own mix. In this case you would have 4 independent channels: click, tracks, band, and drums.
 
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