Music Fact Sheets – Brass/Drummers

Bass Players and Drummers

Even though it may be surprising to group bass players and drummers together, the types of noise exposure can be similar due to location within the band. In some cases, the environmental strategies to minimize the potential from hearing loss, are also similar.

  • Humming just prior to, and through a loud sound such as a cymbal crash or rim shot, may afford some hearing protection. A small muscle in our middle ears contracts upon the sensation of loud sounds which pulls on the bones of the middle ear to temporarily make it harder for sound to be transmitted through to the inner ear. Mother nature designed us with this, so that our own voice would not be perceived as too loud. If you know an imminent loud sound such as a cymbal crash is about to occur then humm just before the crash and sustain the hum through the sound.
  • Shakers (small, hockey puck sized speakers) can be bolted under a drummer’s seat, or screwed onto a 1 square foot piece of 3/4” plywood board placed on the floor near the bass player or drummer. Wired into the main amplification system these give the impression to the musician that they are playing slightly louder than they actually are. The musicians are happy and their ears are happy.
  • Plexiglas™ baffles can be erected between the cymbals and the bass players to attenuate (lessen) the sound energy of the drums for other musicians. They need to not extend too high to ensure the drummer is not subject to his own high frequency reflections as these increase the potential for future hearing loss.
  • Ear monitors are small in-the-ear devices that look like hearing aids connected to small wire cables. They can be plugged directly into the amplification system. These afford some protection from overly loud music and allow the bass players and drummers to monitor their music. Frequently, the overall sound levels on stage during rehearsals and performances are quieter while using these monitors.
  • Acoustic monitors are stethoscope-like devices that can be used by acoustic bass and cello players to allow them to better hear their own instrument. A length of thin hearing aid tubing plugs into a custom made earplug on one end and a suction cup or similar attachment plugs onto the tailpiece, bridge, or body of the bass. The bass musician can better monitor their own instrument which has the benefit of not overplaying. Wrist and arm strain is usually reduced with such a set-up.
  • Drummers should be using the ER-25 earplugs. Too much ear protection can and does result in arm and wrist strain (due to overplaying) and not enough protection can result in continued hearing loss. The ER-25 (like its more mild form, the ER-15) is a uniform or flat ear protector which attenuates the bass notes, the mid-range notes and the high-frequency notes without change the music balance. Wearing earplugs that block more noise, especially the high hat cymbal and rim shot of the drum. This can result in wrist pain as the drummer is hitting harder than necessary.
  • The human ear is much like any other body part- too much use and it may be damaged. The ear takes about 16 hours to “reset”. After attending a rock concert you may notice reduced hearing and/or tinnitus (ringing) in your ears. If your hearing was assessed immediately after the concert it would show as a temporary hearing loss. After 16 hours your hearing should return to its “baseline” normal level. After a loud session or concert, don’t practice for 16-18 hours.

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All information is provided in the interests of Hearing Health education and is of a general nature. In all cases you should consult your doctor or other allied health professional for advice regarding your individual circumstances.