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Do In-Ear Monitors Protect Musicians' Hearing?

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In-ear monitors for live performances are commonly considered to give better sound quality than loudspeaker monitors. They are also often assumed to reduce sound exposure. Because of lack of evidence for this, sound exposure for pop/rock/jazz musicians was compared between performances with in-ear and loudspeaker monitors. Equivalent sound pressure levels at the musicians’ ears were 94 to 105 dBA with loudspeaker and 86 to 108 dBA with in-ear monitors. Many participants used earplugs when using loudspeaker monitors. Therefore, the recommendation, from a pure hearing protection perspective, is to use loudspeaker monitors and earplugs. However, the large spread in levels between musicians using in-ear monitors suggests that with better training and measurements of sound exposure, in-ear monitors could be used safely.

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