Preventing the Sound of Silence

In the bustling cacophony of modern life, our sense of hearing often takes a backseat until it begins to falter. Yet, the ability to perceive sound is integral to our daily experiences, connecting us to the world around us in profound ways. This connection is paramount for musicians, as it is the cornerstone to their creativity and occupation. Despite its significance, hearing health is most often overlooked in the music industry, leading to long-term hearing damage and impairment.

Deeply experienced sound engineer Ryan Doordan has a rich history in the music industry, having worked for several bands in various positions such as front-of-house mixer, monitor engineer, RF coordinator and audio recording engineer. But in recent years he has mainly concentrated his efforts on mixing in-ear monitors for various artists including My Morning Jacket and Father John Misty. Recently, Doordan was made aware of the Sensaphonics dB Check Pro sound level analyzer, designed specifically to show real-time in-ear SPL and safe exposure times for professional IEMs and headphones from 12 major brands.

“I’ve been curious about how loud we’ve all been listening to our in-ear packs, and I’ve been deafened many times when I’ve gone up to an artist and tried to listen at their levels,” stated Ryan Doordan. “I would hear things from them like, ‘Oh, my pack’s not working right.’ And I go up to their pack, and listen at the level they are listening to their in-ears and I say ‘That’s killing me.’ I’ve even had mentors in my past when I was first starting out in the business, who told me to always listen at the level that the artist was listening to, so that you hear exactly what they’re hearing. But I remember at that time I was working with an artist who was 40 years older than me, and his hearing was severely compromised. It’s hard for me to say, or let alone justify, ‘I need to damage my hearing because his hearing is damaged.’ The dB Check Pro instantly puts into focus exactly where each of my artists is at with real-time data – and more importantly, looking at that data is the first step in what I need to be doing with them to preserve their hearing health.”

When Doordan showed up at soundcheck with his new measurement device, each member of My Morning Jacket was very interested in learning their personal listening levels and how long they could safely sustain them. “I showed everybody at the beginning of a soundcheck the new db Check Pro, and everybody was very keen to try it out. So each musician used it on one or two songs, and at the end of the exercise they would look at the dB Check display and be blown away at just how loud they were listening, and then they dialed in what they thought the listening level should be. It gave them a real-time snapshot of whether they need to turn down or change their mix.”

After working with the dB Check Pro, Doordan observed: “Some artists really care about their hearing, and some just want to say, ‘Well, I need the vibe, and if I have to crank it, then I have to crank it.’ And so the dB Check Pro is very handy for the people who actually care about their hearing. But there’s the other side of using in-ears, where you’re able to really give yourself a powerful, dialed-in mix that you can’t get from wedges without affecting the volume onstage. A loud mix in in-ears is a powerful tool for a performer, as long as it’s not at dangerous levels. I really like having the dB Check Pro unit around. I feel like it’s an essential tool for any monitor engineer or front-of-house engineer.

dB Check Pro arises from audiologist and President of Sensaphonics Dr. Michael Santucci’s ongoing commitment to safeguarding hearing in music. It offers immediate feedback on the volume levels of in-ear monitors (IEMs) or headphones when both are worn. The patented device shows the average sound pressure levels (SPL) at the user’s ears and recommends safe listening durations. Additionally, it monitors ambient noise using its built-in microphone. As the sole device of its kind, dB Check Pro empowers music professionals with crucial insights into safe listening levels and durations during live performances, rehearsals, and studio sessions.

Info: www.sensaphonics.com/products/db-check-pro 

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