One of the unfortunate effects of drumming is potential hearing loss over time. This happens when drummers don’t protect their ears and they expose themselves to the loud volume that drums and cymbals produce over the years.
Once your hearing goes, it never comes back. So, it’s incredibly important to protect your ears, not just for drumming but for quality of life in general.
It should be non-negotiable to wear hearing protection when you’re practicing drums. However, different drummers prefer various options.
Here’s a list of eight good hearing protection options for drummers.
- 1 For Your Ears
- 2 Different Gear Options
- 3 Hearing Protection Tips
- 4 Final Thoughts on Hearing Protection for Drummers
For Your Ears
Foam earplugs are the most affordable option when it comes to ear protection. You can purchase a pack of them for a few dollars, and then you can use a single pair a few times before throwing them away. They’re disposable, so you’ll run through packs of them as time goes on.
These earplugs are typically used by factory workers, so you can easily find them in hardware stores. As they’re made from foam, they fit the size of your ears perfectly. You just squeeze them in, and you’ll be good to go.
The downside of foam earplugs is that they don’t offer as much ear protection as many of the other options that we’ll mention on this list. They’re also not environmentally friendly, as you’ll constantly throw them in the garbage after using them for a while.
Triple-Flanged earplugs are made from silicone, and they’re designed to be used repeatedly. These are a better option compared to foam earplugs, as they’re more environmentally friendly. You’ll also save money in the long run, as you don’t need to buy multiple of these as you do with foam earplugs.
These earplugs tend to feel a lot more comfortable to wear. They also block out more sound than foam earplugs do.
One of our favorite examples of these would be the Etymotic Research ER-20XS earplugs. These earplugs come with optional foam tips and a removable neck cord. They’re designed to maintain sound in its most natural form, allowing you to protect your ears without changing how you hear the drums you’re playing.
You get plenty more options like this, with some triple-flanged earplugs having innovative designs and others being fairly simplistic.
In-ear monitors are a standard earphone option that every musician needs to have for live gigs. Wedge amps on stages have become less common in recent years, with musicians on stage now needing to wear in-ears to be able to hear everything.
So, all drummers should have a pair of in-ear monitors for this purpose. However, an added benefit is that they protect your ears when you’re playing the drums alone. They fit snuggly into your ear canals, so they reduce sound quite significantly.
You can wear these when playing the drums solo or when playing to music. Just make sure not to pump the volume too loud, as that will negate the benefit of blocking out a bit of the drum sound.
The Shure SE215s are the most popular in-ear monitoring earphones that are affordable, so they’re a reliable pick to go with.
Noise-canceling earmuffs are designed to look like headphones, but they don’t have any wiring in them to allow you to listen to anything. They’re purely designed to reduce noise, and they’re arguably the most effective hearing protection option out there.
These earmuffs are mostly used by construction workers when they’re using loud tools, but they’re perfect for drumming as well.
They’ll purely work as a practice option, as they’ll block so much sound out that you won’t be able to use them comfortably at a gig or band practice. They also don’t look too pretty, as the ear cups are very large over your ears.
If you want to get the most ear protection possible, you could put disposable earplugs inside your ears and place these over them for ultimate effectiveness. We wouldn’t recommend most people go to that extreme, though.
Noise-canceling headphones are another excellent hearing protection option. We suggest that every drummer should have a pair of these and a pair of in-ear monitors.
The reason for having both is that noise-canceling headphones are a lot more comfortable. You can wear these for lengthy practice sessions without straining your ears. Just note that they tend to take a lot of the high-frequency sounds away. That’s a good thing, but it’s something to get used to.
The problem is that noise-canceling headphones look quite bulky on your head, and that’s why you should have a pair of in-ear monitors for when you play gigs.
You’ll get better quality for your money with noise-canceling headphones compared to in-ears, so you should get these for playing to music in your practice room. They’re also very commonly used in studio settings.
One of the most popular pairs of noise-canceling headphones for drummers is the Vic Firth Isolation Headphones.
Different Gear Options
While wearing ear protection will keep you safe when playing acoustic drums, there will be times when you don’t want to feel restricted by anything. Here are a few options to consider if you don’t want to wear anything on your ears.
Low-Volume Cymbals and Drumheads
Low-volume cymbals and drumheads are designed to keep the peace with the people around you (and save you soundproofing your room). You replace your normal cymbals with ones that have dozens of holes to reduce the volume by up to 80%. You then swap your drumheads out for mesh ones that also make a fraction of the sound.
These cymbals and drumheads are made for quiet practicing, but they’re also much safer for your ears than standard acoustic drum sets are.
They make much less noise, so your ears won’t be in danger even when you play the drums very hard with them equipped.
A lot of drummers set practice kits up with these to play when they don’t want to hear the full sound of a standard drum set. The Evans dB Set is a good option to check out.
Electronic drums are typically the go-to option for drummers who can’t make lots of noise with an acoustic set. If you just play on the pads, your ears will be perfectly safe.
However, the two ways of hearing the drum sounds from an e-kit are by plugging in headphones or running the kit through an amp. If you want to keep your ears safe without wearing any ear protection, then you need to make sure that you’re not pumping the volume on those two things.
It can be very easy to push the volume too high on headphones, so keep that in mind when playing an electronic kit.
If you don’t want to wear anything over your ears, then you’ll need to get an amp.
If you want to play on your acoustic kit without wearing ear protection and damaging your ears with high volume, you should consider playing with rute sticks instead of regular sticks. These are sticks with dozens of thistles tied together, and they have much less attack than regular sticks.
They’re a lot easier on the ears, but they still make it feel like you’re playing an acoustic drum kit comfortably. Some people will suggest that you use brushes, but we find that rute sticks feel a lot closer to using normal sticks.
They’ll sound very earthy on the cymbals and drums. You just won’t get reduced volume from your kick drum, so you’ll need to keep that in check.
These Vic Firth Rute Sticks are a good pick.
Hearing Protection Tips
Here are a few more things to consider about protecting your ears. Even if you always wear ear protection, there are still things that may damage your ears over time.
Avoid Lengthy Practice Sessions
The longer you expose yourself to loud sound levels, the worse it is for your ears. So, taking breaks in between your practice sessions is one of the best things you can do.
Your ears need those breaks so that they can recuperate. If you practice for hours on end, the constant high levels of volume will slowly damage your hearing. It’s a lot better to have two two-hour practice sessions a day than it is to have one four-hour practice session.
Don’t Pump the Volume Away from Your Drum Kit
It’s very easy to remember that playing the drums will damage your hearing if you’re not careful, but people often forget that everything else can as well. If you pump the volume of the radio on all your car rides, it will do just as much damage to your ears as playing the drums will.
It’s even more problematic if you play drums and pump loud music whenever you’re not playing drums. So, keep that in mind when you’re listening to music or doing anything else where there are loud volume levels.
Standing in the front row of a concert may be a fun time, but it only takes one pumping front monitor to damage your hearing forever.
Final Thoughts on Hearing Protection for Drummers
Our best piece of advice for protecting your ears as a drummer would be to get a good pair of headphones and a good pair of in-ear monitors. Having these will keep you fully equipped for practicing and gigging, and you’ll save your hearing at the same time by using them. There are other options to consider as well, though, and those may sound more appealing to you.
Whichever ear protection options you choose, just make sure that you’re doing something to keep your ears safe. There are so many older drummers out there that regret not protecting their ears in their younger days, and it’s too late for them now.