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  • Writer's pictureVal Bastien

How Good Is Your Hearing?

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Most singers are unaware of a great threat subtly infiltrating their daily lives: DECIBELS. Sound is everywhere; soft and loud. We welcome sounds to define our experience. I will be the first one to admit it: there is a gratifying feeling in listening to our favorite music at high volume. And singers, we do this often either for entertainment value or to learn songs. Do you agree? How does loud music make you feel? How often do you listen to music at a loud volume?

Does listening to loud music give you a sense of EXCITMENT? Do you need loud music to get INSPIRED? Does blasting music in your headphones help you PURGE feelings of frustration and sadness? Do you PERFORM better when cranking up the volume during rehearsal? Would you feel the same at a rock concert if the music was played SOFTLY and not loud at all?

Sound, at any volume, is powerful. If you consider that sound is vibration, and that vibration affects EVERYTHING that it comes in contact with, even at a cellular level, our body has no choice but to react. Knowingly or not. What I have found to be true is that loud music that we LOVE heightens emotions and helps channeling feelings. And that feels AMAZING, doesn't it?!

But beyond comfortable levels, the fight or flight respond turns into stress. Even pain. So we must ask: what is the threshold for what is considered comfortable? At what point do we physically feel pain? How loud is too loud before it takes a toll on our health? And when does damage actually start occurring? What does it do to your ears? Should you worry about hearing loss?

How does it ENDANGER your SINGING?

It is the amplitude of sound that we measure in decibels. Whispering rates at 30 decibels. A conversation at 70 decibels. Stand outside below a low flying jet plane crossing the sky and your ears will hurt (170 decibels). Live music events often reach over 130 decibels. And it probably gets worse depending on where your seat is... and if you're on the floor whether or not you're standing right in front of the speakers. But you don't have to be a regular at attending rock concerts to jeopardize your hearing health. Earphones have a playback capability of over 120 decibels. You could very well be harming your ears from the comfort of your home and from your own wrongdoing. Here is what most people don't know: we don't feel pain below 140 decibels but damage happens at around 120 decibels. In other words, when you leave that concert with a buzz in your ears, you know that it was too loud. But you don't realize you're harming to your ears every day listening to loud music in your headphones because your ears never hurt. Meanwhile, as your hearing diminishes, your tolerance to loudness increases so you keep turning up the volume louder and louder.

Now, if you're at all serious about singing, this is a BIG deal. It is already CHALLENGING enough for singers to hear their voice accurately; how can you do so if you can't hear well to begin with? If you can't hear sound as it is, your perception of treble and bass resonance will be altered. You will compensate by changing your placement to create a sound that is pleasing to you while it might not be so to others! If you sing with the wrong placement, you will develop all kinds of tensions. You will loose your ability to sing in tune. Your range will become restricted. Your natural projection will be gone.Because of your defective hearing, you will try to sing louder to hear yourself better; another true voice killer. You will not only loose your natural voice appeal, you will start experiencing vocal fatigue more often. You might even develop nodules. You will NEVER know what you really sound like ever again. And what you hear, you may NOT like at all!You may even develop tinnitus; a constant buzz in your ears that will NEVER go away. You will become depressed and beat yourself up for not caring for your hearing before. But it will be TOO LATE.

To avoid hearing loss and prevent consequent vocal injury, remain conservative with volume when listening to music. Do wear quality ear plugs at live music events. Buy in-ear monitors to filter your voice in the mix without hearing all instruments so loudly in your ears during band rehearsal. Hire an experienced sound engineer to mix your live show and keep wearing those high quality in-ear monitors. Every. Time.

Do you really need to listen to music with headphones? After two pairs of headphones were stolen by someone I had welcomed in my house over 10 years ago, I was so mad (not because of the value but the intent of stealing itself) that I never purchased them again. Now I can't stand them at all; they give me a headache even at a lower volume.

So above all, my best advice is: avoid listening to music with headphones!

Now, even with the best hearing, we don't quite hear ourselves the way others hear us because our voice resonates within our bone structure and that's what we hear. But it is important within that perspective to recognize what is considered beautiful singing so that you can direct your voice on the correct travel path (placement), easily sing in tune, expand your range and increase vocal projection with minimal effort. Even when the sound engineer totally messes up the live mix and you can't hear your voice in the general sense of it.

I have created a masterclass that explains my 5-step program to help you succeed in developing correct vocal technique and reaching your vocal goals.

Access the masterclass here:

Sing your heart out!



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