How to protect your ears during the music festival season

How to protect your ears during the music festival season

Your ears are your tools - protect them!

Music festival season is in full swing in Montreal, a city renowned for its cultural dynamism and outdoor events. For aspiring sound engineers, this is an exciting time, but you need to be careful to protect yourself, especially when your ears are actually your tools of the trade.

So why is it so important to take care of your hearing health? Let's take a popularized look at this important issue.

Prolonged exposure to high noise levels

At music festivals, sound levels can often exceed 100 decibels (dB), even reaching 120 dB near the speakers. According to theWorld Health Organization (WHO), exposure to sound levels in excess of 85 dB for prolonged periods can cause irreversible hearing damage.

For a sound engineer, who spends many hours using his or her ears and works in noisy environments, the risk is even higher, so it's imperative to protect yourself with hearing aids or headphones. Above all, so that you can preserve your work tools and continue to ensure the sound quality of your productions.

The structure of the inner ear

The inner ear contains the cochlea, a spiral-shaped structure filled with fluid. The cochlea is essential for converting sound vibrations into electrical signals that the brain can interpret as sound. Find out more about how the ear works in this very detailed article.

Ciliated cells

Outer hair cells They amplify sound vibrations and improve the sensitivity and selectivity of the cochlea.

Inner hair cells They transform mechanical vibrations into electrical signals transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve.

The effects of loud noise on hair cells

Hair cells are extremely sensitive and can be damaged by exposure to high-intensity sound. Here's how it happens:

Mechanical stress High sound levels cause excessive vibrations in the cochlea. The hair cells, particularly the outer ones, undergo considerable mechanical stress, which can damage their structure.

Oxidative damage Intense noise can induce the production of free radicals, leading to oxidative stress that damages hair cells.

Cell death Mechanical and oxidative damage can lead to the death of hair cells. Unlike other cells in the body, hair cells do not regenerate, making damage irreversible.

Consequences for the cochlea

The cochlea can also be affected more globally:

Synapse damage The connections between the inner hair cells and the auditory nerve can be damaged, disrupting signal transmission to the brain.

Loss of hearing accuracy As the outer hair cells are responsible for amplification and precision, their loss leads to a reduction in the ability to hear soft sounds and discriminate frequencies.

Symptoms of hearing loss

Damage to hair cells and the cochlea manifests itself in several symptoms:

Tinnitus Ringing or whistling in the ears.

Hearing loss Decreased ability to hear sounds, often high frequencies first.

Sound distortion : Sounds may appear distorted or less clear.

Short- and long-term effects on hearing

Repeated exposure to loud sounds can cause tinnitus (ringing or whistling in the ears) and temporary hearing loss, which can become permanent if no protective measures are taken.

For a sound engineer, whose career depends on hearing acuity, even a slight hearing loss can compromise his or her ability to discern the sonic nuances necessary for quality mixing.

Hearing protection solutions

Fortunately, there are several solutions for protecting your ears while working in noisy environments:

Specialized earplugs Unlike standard earplugs, musician's earplugs are designed to reduce volume without compromising sound quality. They enable sound engineers to continue perceiving musical details while protecting their hearing.

Ear muffs : These headphones offer additional protection by considerably reducing noise levels, while allowing clear listening via monitoring systems.

Hearing breaks Taking regular breaks from loud noise sources reduces overall noise exposure and gives the ears time to rest.

Volume control If possible, keep the volume at a safe level, especially when using headphones or earphones.

Awareness and prevention

It is crucial to promote a culture of prevention among sound professionals. Festival organizers should also play a role by providing protective equipment and raising awareness of hearing risks. Hearing screening initiatives can also help detect hearing problems at an early stage.


Montreal's music festival season is a time for celebration and creativity, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of sound engineers' hearing health. By adopting the right protective practices, they can enjoy these events to the full, while preserving their hearing for years to come. Hearing protection is an essential investment in their professional future and personal well-being.