There are a few things which are very important to a musician. I've always been very protective of my face (with the exception of Icicle-gate which you can ask my friend and fellow low brass player Ben Denne about) and of my right hand. I've always treated them as if they were sacred and realized that if I were ever do permanent damage to either that I would no longer be able to be a serious tuba player. But there was one thing that I always ignored that was arguably more important than either of them.
The elephant in the room was my hearing. I always knew you only get one set of ears but I had simply never followed through on getting any ear protection. This is spite of the fact that between 1990 and today I've seen over 250 rock concerts! And of course, I occasionally rehearse in very tight quarters on the road with Boston Brass that can lead to some very loud sounds.
Well I finally pulled the trigger a couple of weeks ago and made an appointment with an audiologist. When I scheduled my appointment to get fitted for a set of plugs they told me they also offered a free hearing test. To be honest, I was scared to test my hearing. I just didn't want to know if it was too late for me to prevent serious hearing loss. But I realized that not knowing was going to be far worse than finding out I had a problem so I took them up on their offer.
Miraculously, the test found that I had some hearing loss but nothing too drastic! What a relief it was to find out that I hadn't waited too long. Between 150 Phish concerts, standing in front of Phantom Regiment, and sitting next to a drum set every December in a big band I feared the worst. It turns out my fears were warranted because I have experienced some hearing loss and I was on my way to it affecting my ability to both play and enjoy music. Thank goodness I followed through in time.
I chose Westone Musician Earplugs with a long canal which was recommended by brass playing friends of mine. The plugs came with three different levels: 9 dbs, 15 dbs, and 25 dbs. I will be using the 9's for most performing, the 25's for my rock concerts, and will always have all three on hand for convenience sake.
I strongly encourage any young performers, directors, or fans of live music to invest in a professional set of earplugs before it is too late. Mine cost $270 with all three of the settings although you can get just one level for less money. I sure am appreciative I acted before there was serious damage.