Hearing Protection

July 19, 2004 at 08:26 PM · Hello all,

I've been curious as to how many decibels do orchestral instruments produce normally. Most sites said violins are around 80-100, other instruments are slightly different. I'm just an amateur so it doesn't really matter, but do any of you professionals use earplugs or a mute constantly? and what would you do if there's an orchestra/quartet rehearsal or something? what would you recommend that wouldn't distort the pitch or muffle the sound too much?

Thank you!

Replies (16)

July 19, 2004 at 09:40 PM · According to the numbers I have, oboe can reach about 95, violin can reach 100, timpani reaches 110, flutes reach 112, and trumpets/trombones reach 114. The Boston Symphony did a sound study in '97 and sound levels on stage ranged from an average of about 70-79 to peak levels of 108-128. Chamber music levels are lower... about 75-80, according to the numbers I have.

Most professional orchestras provide foam earplugs free of charge if you want them, and also set up plexiglass sound shields at various hot spots on stage. You can also get special musician's earplugs from Etymotic Reasearch, although you need to get those through an audiologist. Some orchestras will subsidize part of the cost. I don't know what percentage of musicians use earplugs regularly; it would be an interesting study. My spouse plays professionally, and he uses earplugs or cotton for some of the louder pops shows but not for classical series performances.

July 20, 2004 at 01:28 AM · Wouldn't it impair listening to your intonation and relative volume? I am new to the violin but played French horn for many years, and it's hard enough to keep that instrument in tune, without losing the overtones by wearing ear plugs. I honestly never even thought of wearing any ear protection. And I only hear from one ear since I had meningitis when I was a small child.

July 20, 2004 at 03:23 AM · There has been studies done that show orchestral musicians suffer from a higher rate of hearing loss then rock musicians.

When playing in an orchestra in works such as Pictures at an Exhibition, parts of Tchaik 4 and Revueltes Noche De Los Mayas, I use ear plugs. There are some highly exspensive musicians ear plugs that can be purchased that still allow you to clearly hear what you are playing while protecting your ears in the process.

July 20, 2004 at 08:15 AM · It's usually not such a problem for string players as they are located a distance from the instruments that make the most noise - Brass and Percussion. The only reason I would probably think about ear plugs is if I was playing in the second violins and seated right next to the piccolo, which can be quite piercing sometimes.

The Back row of the winds will often wear ear plugs or have boards set up behind them so that the noise is muffled from the percussion (the Bells are especially loud, mainly because you need to hit them quite hard just so they can be heard)

I've never really looked into it, but wouldn't the ear plugs musicians use be similar to ones used by sporting shooters? Ones that allow most noise through but block out high frequencies and loud noises? Or maybe that was just something i read in a book...

August 12, 2004 at 06:21 AM · I have been experiencing pain in my ear after practicing. Please tell me it isn't violin related because my mom would not let me play.

August 12, 2004 at 01:29 PM · In my experience I have found that most string players don't wear earplugs while more winds and brass do use them.

I personally am going to get myself a decent pair this season. There is no doubt that we put our ears at risk on a regular basis. I will probably only wear them (or only one) at pops concerts since they do make it harder to play.

I have been told that you can get good earplugs for a cheap price at gudhears.com. A violinist in my orchestra says that he can hear at a full spectrum and it sounds like someone just turned down the volume knob.

August 13, 2004 at 04:37 AM · If I am going to be practicing a lot I will use a plug in my left ear as it is so close to the sound box. I started this after seeing a show where a man was going deaf because of his violin practices.

January 25, 2017 at 06:42 PM · I would plug my left ear if I felt my violin screamed in my ears during an individual practice session. I don't see the print of plugging my right ear. I never wear earplugs in ensemble situations or lessons in fear of tonal distoortion.

January 25, 2017 at 07:49 PM · Even if there is no discomfort, the decibels are still there, insidiously destroying the hair-cells in the cochlea. Which do not grow back.

OK, some of us have better internal protection from the tiny muscles that tighten to limit the motions of the ossicles between the eardrum and cochlea.

January 26, 2017 at 04:11 AM · I don't generally use earplugs when practicing myself, or rehearsing with a chamber group. Orchestra rehearsals are a different story. Percussion instruments are usually the problem. The gong and suspended cymbal are the worst since they really build up a broad and loud spectrum or sound. The other issue with these instruments, is that they don't produce the impulses that trigger the internal protection in the ear that Adrian referred to. If I know a rehearsal will be problematic, I use earplugs. Otherwise, I don't.

Earplugs change the balance of the sound I hear--I hear a lot more of myself while wearing earplugs. That can be helpful for a rehearsal or two, because I know better how my sound is really fitting in.

January 26, 2017 at 11:55 PM · Well, Greg.... I do not know about earplugs, but you look like a Michael Phelps' doppelganger!

January 27, 2017 at 12:22 AM · Rocky, I've never gotten that one before, but swimmers do wear earplugs!

January 28, 2017 at 07:51 PM · Nasir DZ - are you a real person or just a company selling earplugs? Over the past few months your posts have all been about earplugs - with a link. And now you pick up a 13 years old thread to promote your business.....

January 28, 2017 at 08:02 PM · No questions; it's a sales person.

January 29, 2017 at 12:41 PM · It is quite obvious to me why Nasir Dz is posting, and that he does it every once in a while to promote his product. I always wear foam earplugs when practicing unless I am using a mute which I am not really fond of if I can avoid it. I think that if young players read through these reiterated threads and think that, gee maybe it would be beneficial for me to try out some form of hearing protection...

February 13, 2017 at 05:35 AM · I rarely use hearing protection for the reasons listed previously, but when I do, Hearos give the least amount of coloration imho. Context- I recently put a center Flesch chin rest on so that I could hear better in loud orchestra rehearsals.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine