Hearing is especially important to a musician -- but as violinists and violists, several factors can work to damage our hearing.
One problem is the fact that the instrument sits so close to our left ear, feeding it an excess of sound for long periods of time, even when we are just practicing. And another problem is that when playing in orchestra or in a band, we can can be subjected an earful of very loud noise from other instruments or from amplification systems.
One solution is to wear earplugs when playing, something that I've certainly done during loud pops gigs.
Very often if a concert is particularly loud or amplified, the orchestra will provide conventional foam earplugs backstage to anyone who wants them.
A number of years ago I took matters into my own hands and saw a doctor who could set me up with custom earplugs by a company called Etymotic. These were developed specifically for musicians in the Chicago Symphony, by a doctor named Mead Killion, who also just so happens to be an amateur violinist. These earplugs attenuate the sound, so you hear all the same things, just a lot softer. They must be fitted to your ear specifically, as they fit in there like a hearing aid.
I have found earplugs to be a lifesaver during loud gigs, and I've also occasionally used them at home for practicing, though using a mute also can work. But with the musician earplugs, it is possible to practice and still to hear what you are doing!
What are your experiences with playing with earplugs? Is it something you have ever done, and it what situations? Do you ever use earplugs for practicing? Or perhaps even just an earplug in the left year? (You can vote "yes" if that is what you do!) Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts about hearing protection and the use of earplugs.
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