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Tinnitus: A Real Problem For Every DJ

About five years ago, I hit an unexpected wall that no creative person should ever have to go through. Imagine this – you are at the top of your game and getting gigs with a rising reputation when a physical challenge of hearing loss threatens to derail and possibly end your promising career. After ten years of DJing, that’s exactly what I experienced. This article is the story about what happened, and how you can avoid the same mistakes.


The English pronounce it “Tin – nit – tus”  and the Americans “tin -nye-tus”, but anyone that has tinnitus would call it “life-changing”. Chances are most of you have experienced the sensation of ringing in your ears after a particularly loud concert. Full time DJs know that it can take up to 1-3 hours after a gig before the ringing finally goes away. Unfortunately, for some people, that persistant buzz never disappears.  They’re left with a constant tone – for life. This condition is called tinnitus, and can range from barely noticeable low tones to disturbing high frequencies that end careers.

To hear what tinnitus really sounds like, listen to this fantastic podcast from “This American Life”.

The average night club can range from 100DB to 115db, with Sankey’s boasting a wholloping 120db output.

OSHA (for the non-US readers, that’s our federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines dictate that levels above 105 DB in a work place are “unsafe” for more than one hour and could lead to hearing damage.  115DB? – 25 minutes.

The problem DJs face is that their near field monitors are usually under-powered, over-cranked and at very close proximity to the head. These factors mean very high SPLs and DBs in mid to high frequencies, which can cause real problems if not managed properly.


In late 2007, I was at the top of my DJ game, playing 3-4 gigs per week, traveling throughout the world and making a pretty good living playing music. This all started to come to a screeching halt when tinnitus showed up.  Personally, I was lucky. My hearing loss popped in and out randomly throughout the week. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, a high-pitched frequency would fade in as if someone had turned on a miniature synthesizer in my head. After three minutes or so it would drift away, but the fear was ever present: what if this doesn’t go away?

That fear, and the realization that DJing was making things worse, triggered me to change my lifestyle and significantly reduce noise. In the end that meant adjusting how I DJed, cutting most gigs and limiting set lengths. Having something taken away from you without choice was profoundly depressing and took a while to get over.

Fortunately, it was a blessing in disguise. Instead of gigging full time, my focus turned to this site and today, I feel significantly more fulfilled helping others DJ but for many, tinnitus may mean the end of a career completely.


Image from the Washington Post – click to enlarge and read some awesome details about tinnitus and hearing!

Tinnitus  is the medical term for the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant-with single or multiple tones-and its perceived volume can range from subtle to shattering.

  • Intense brief noises, like a firecracker or an explosion, can damage hair cells, as can continuous and/or repeated exposure to high levels of noise.
  • Once the hair cells are damaged, there is no current treatment to repair them.


Yes, excessive exposure to noise through DJing can (and does) cause tinnitus, however there are many things you can do that will significantly reduce, if not eliminate most of the risk. Here they are, from basic to more advanced:

 1) Turn down the monitors between each mix

Tinnitus is caused by exposure over time. By keeping your monitors on throughout a set, your ears naturally fatigue, demanding higher volumes to produce equal results. This downward cycle can only go one direction. To end it, simply turn off the near-field DJ monitors whenever possible.

  • This practice actually provides a unique opportunity as well, as it gives the DJ an idea of how the master system sounds and if it needs to be tuned.

2) Limit back-to-back gigs if possible

After a long gig the ear follicles are very fatigued and at their most vulnerable. Basically, they need time to recover. Packing gigs back-to-back will layer on the damage and never give the ears a decent chance to recover.

3) Limit the length of sets

I did the most damage when I was playing back to back sets of 3-6 hours. It only took a year of this routine before things started to get pretty bad. Personally, I find that a one hour set almost never causes problems with in-ears or very conservative monitoring – but I can really feel things after two. For most DJs, limiting set lengths is not an option but if you are having problems this may be a compromise that saves a career.

chances are high that you’ll be spending more than one hour in the club. For more on that, go onto tip # 4.

4) Use DB reducing ear plugs

What if you could hear the music perfectly, but just have the loudness lowered? Wouldn’t that be perfect for DJs? Well, such technology does exist (although not perfectly). Many companies out there manufacture custom-molded decible-reducing ear plugs. They have exchangeable filters that step down the volume in increments- often 5,10,15 or 20 DB.

In theory, this reduction is even across the spectrum range producing a even response that does not distort your sonic perspective. This is very important if you are the person in charge of tuning the frequency response of the room.

In practice, I found that these don’t exactly sound natural and take a lot of getting used to while DJing live. Personally I could never trust my ears, and found my mixes suffered. Other DJs have no problem and mix seamlessly with earplugs in. Everyone agrees they are perfect for when you are not DJing and hanging out at the club. Socializing at the club is the precise time when a lot of damage can take place, so even if you are just a patron – invest in decibel-reducing ear plugs. These come in two varieties:

  1. Non-custom (~$10 – $30) – we sell a great set made by V-Moda in the DJTT webstore
  2. Custom-molded “musicians ear plugs” (example below – often $100+) – these often require a trip to an audiologist – read more here!

We’d recommend grabbing a pair of non-custom earplugs ASAP if you don’t already own them. Take them out, give them a spin and see what difference it makes when you come home and your ears aren’t ringing after every night you go out.

Custom-molded musician’s earplugs are an investment, but many professional performers swear by them as the best way to prevent hearing loss. You’ll often find sound professionals using them as well – sometimes in the range of 30 or 50 decibel reduction.

5) Use in-ear monitors

This was my personal solution, and one that has effectively worked for most modern musicians. In-ear monitors block out the outside world, creating a very low noise listening environment where every detail of the mix is perfectly exposed.

Wait, if this is so perfect, why don’t we see all DJs using in-ears? Well, there are a few downsides:

  • Your in-ears don’t reflect what the room sounds like, so things may sound great in the headphones but terrible on stage.
  • For in-ears to be effective they need to be in both ears, preventing traditional “pre-cuing” popular with most DJs that beat match manually.
  • In-ears eliminate that iconic “DJ” look with big over-ear cans, and replace them with a more “iPod” look that some DJs feel does not look professional.
  • Some DJs, including myself, feel that in-ears make you feel isolated from the crowd and eliminate the excitement of the loud sound system that seems to naturally stimulate our brains. In short, you might feel less “into it” without the sensation of a huge sound system at your finger tips.
  • For controllerists using a lot of effects and scratching, in-ears are potentially very misleading, with certain things sounding perfect in the headphones but far too loud and piercing on a larger amplified system. Personally I found this to be a serious issue and now DJ with monitors when doing particularly “live” sets.


After a few years of laying low, I’ve started to gig again (a few times a month) with in-ear monitors, one hour set times, and careful near field monitor management. With this regimen and a few years off, my condition has greatly improved – with almost none of the symptoms previously mentioned. After a solid night of DJing, pain does show up – but the ringing and dizziness are basically gone.

The Lesson Learned: Your ears can heal themselves of short term damage, but once things are really broken, they are broken for good. Start adopting healthy DJ habits before it’s too late. If this is the only thing my site teaches you, then it will all be completely worth the effort.

Ean Golden - Author

Ean Golden is the founder of Dj TechTools and a worldwide Dj specializing in controllers and new performance technology.

Follow Ean on: Twitter  Facebook   SoundCloud   YouTube 

  • kim park

    CURE TO TINNITUS,. One night in October last two year, when I lay down to sleep, I heard this high pitched noise coming from my left ear.I did not pay that much attention and went to sleep. The following morning, it was gone. Then again, after one month since the first experience it came back, and this time it came to stay. It was a pretty high pitched noise, and only in my left ear. After 2 days, I went to see an ENT. He said that my left ear was full of wax and need to be cleaned. Actually he did a good job by cleaning both my ears but some hardly stuck wax was still in my left ear. He gave me ear drops. I went home and used ear drops as per his instructions. After two weeks, I revisited him again. He told me that my ears were clean and not to worry about Tinnitus, and reassured to me that it would go away after 2~ 3 week time. The Tinnitus was always there 24/7. In the 4th week I started to panic and then anxiety, depression and fear kicked in and started to have sleepless nights. I was sleepless for 3 straight nights. My wife was also started to worry about me but there was nothing she could do to help me.Then, I started to google about Tinnitus. I read about how Dr john product cure a woman who had tinnitus.i email dr john and i get the product which i use my tinnitus was cure. THANKS TO DR JOHN his herbal remedy is the only permanent solution to tinnitus for more information email him on

  • chirag devansh

    Dr Williams herbal medicine is really a complete and permanent cure to tinnitus with his herbal portion am now also free from the ringing in my ears .

  • Herbs Home

    Hello I want to share a testimony about the doctor who cured me from Fibroid after a year of looking for cure nothing works out, until this faithful day I came across a website details about cure to Fibroid, It’s sound strange to me because there is nothing which I have not tried to have cure to this Fibroid but still yet I have faith in God and decided to try out once more again I contact the doctor through the email address I found there and I explained everything to him, he told me to drop my address which I did, after three days I was given the tracking number of my medicine and after three day it was delivered to me, I found a letter in it which I read carefully till I understand everything and I took the herbal medicine according to it’s instructions and after a couple of one week I decided to visit the hospital to have a test, was so surprise when the doctor came in smiling and start congratulating me and give me the copy of my test result, I was so surprise to see it myself that everything have flush and wash away from my body and this is the third month now, I am not having any health issues anymore and no fibroid in me anymore. I am saying this today because I know there are many out there who need this help and for the fact God has showed me love, I have decided to show the world love too by letting them know today that there is a great doctor called Doctor Ifa who help you cure fibroid and other diseases with his herbal medicine and drugs contact him today on his email address on and get free from your health problems, always remember sound health matters a lot and the Life is too short for you to loose it. Here is my email if you have any question to ask and my phone number is +1 302-583-2195 and doctor email address is


  • karen dish

    How can I ever stop thanking Dr William for the great deed he have done for me, i got an accident when I was 27 years old from that day on i started experience ringing ear problem(tinnitus) i have taken all the western drugs prescribe by various doctor but to no avail . my tinnitus was very loud in the afternoon and I sleep less at night because of this problem i stop my work, few days later i was going through the Internet and I saw a post of so many people testifying about Dr William herbal remedies on how they was being cure for over many years suffering from tinnitus the story Really motivated me that I have to speak with my husband about it, and he said i should give him a try, i contacted Dr William and explain all i have be facing in my life. He assured me that everything is going to be fine if only I can get his herbal portion, i said yes and I requested for it, few days later the herb was sent to me in Kuwait,i started using it as instructed by Dr William for me to take it for 21 Days which I did, can you imagine after talking Dr William herbal medicine for just two weeks i started experience results, it was like a miracle,and now i am permanently cure from this terrible tinnitus, i promise that am going to publish his herb on thing my last breath for the great deed he have done for me. For those with similar ear problem should please contact him on his email address drwilliams098765@gmail his a good man and am proud of him.

  • Karen Dish

    How can I ever stop thanking Dr William for the great thing he have done for me, i got an accident when I was 27 years old from that day on i started experience ringing ear problem(tinnitus) i have taken all the western drugs prescribe by various doctor but to no avail . my tinnitus was very loud in the afternoon and I sleep less at night because of this problem i stop my work, few days later i was going through the Internet and I saw a post of a woman testifying about Dr William herbal remedies on how she was being cure for over her 30 years suffering from tinnitus the story Really motivated me that I have to speak with my husband about it, and he said i should give him a try, i contacted Dr William and explain all i have be facing in my life. He assured me that everything is going to be fine if only I can get his herbal portion, i said yes and I requested for it, few days later the herb was sent to me in Kuwait,i started using it as instructed by Dr William for me to take it for 21 Days which I did, can you imagine after talking Dr William herbal medicine for just two weeks i started experience results, it was like a miracle,and now i am permanently cure from this terrible tinnitus, i promise that am going to publish his herb on thing my last breath for the great deed he have done for me. For those with similar ear problem should please contact him on his email address drwilliams098765@gmail his a good man and am proud of him. 57654

  • Karen Dish

    How can I ever stop thanking Dr William for the great thing he have done for me, i got an accident when I was 27 years old from that day on i started experience ringing ear problem(tinnitus) i have taken all the western drugs prescribe by various doctor but to no avail . my tinnitus was very loud in the afternoon and I sleep less at night because of this problem i stop my work, few days later i was going through the Internet and I saw a post of a woman testifying about Dr William herbal remedies on how she was being cure for over her 30 years suffering from tinnitus the story Really motivated me that I have to speak with my husband about it, and he said i should give him a try, i contacted Dr William and explain all i have be facing in my life. He assured me that everything is going to be fine if only I can get his herbal portion, i said yes and I requested for it, few days later the herb was sent to me in Kuwait,i started using it as instructed by Dr William for me to take it for 21 Days which I did, can you imagine after talking Dr William herbal medicine for just two weeks i started experience results, it was like a miracle,and now i am permanently cure from this terrible tinnitus, i promise that am going to publish his herb on thing my last breath for the great deed he have done for me. For those with similar ear problem should please contact him on his email address drwilliams098765@gmail his a good man and am proud of him. 8765E

  • Karen Dish

    How can I ever stop thanking Dr William for the great thing he have done for me, i got an accident when I was 27 years old from that day on i started experience ringing ear problem(tinnitus) i have taken all the western drugs prescribe by various doctor but to no avail . my tinnitus was very loud in the afternoon and I sleep less at night because of this problem i stop my work, few days later i was going through the Internet and I saw a post of a woman testifying about Dr William herbal remedies on how she was being cure for over her 30 years suffering from tinnitus the story Really motivated me that I have to speak with my husband about it, and he said i should give him a try, i contacted Dr William and explain all i have be facing in my life. He assured me that everything is going to be fine if only I can get his herbal portion, i said yes and I requested for it, few days later the herb was sent to me in Kuwait,i started using it as instructed by Dr William for me to take it for 21 Days which I did, can you imagine after talking Dr William herbal medicine for just two weeks i started experience results, it was like a miracle,and now i am permanently cure from this terrible tinnitus, i promise that am going to publish his herb on thing my last breath for the great deed he have done for me. For those with similar ear problem should please contact him on his email address drwilliams098765@gmail his a good man and am proud of him.

  • Mary Ann

    ” After a solid night of DJing, pain does show up – but the ringing and dizziness are basically gone.”

    In Physics class I was in , during a lecture the professor who actually at the time ( I am not sure right now if he is still in that area) working with sound in medical science/health arena, let the class know, when you feel pain in your ears damage is occurring..that pain is sign damage is occurring; please take care of your ears and make sure that you can play without having pain in your ears

    I think he may have been talking about listening to sound really loud, either ways pain is an indicator damage is occurring according to the professor so please protect your ears

  • vivdia adams


    My daughter suffered from a terrible tinnitus for more than 23 years which started after she turned 5 we all thought it will end but got even worse as days went by. We tried all several treatments and therapy prescribed by various doctors we met but to no avail, she lost total concentration and screamed most times. She usually tells me she hears hissing and ringing noises. This were steady noise that disrupted her entire life, even at night she screams even more because the sounds become louder because everywhere is quiet and she slept less because of this.It was during a casual conversation with a friend that i learned about dr Williams herbal medicine I was able to contact him on his email address. and give him all the necessary information that he needed,few day later he sent me the herbal portion and his medicine was able to restore her back to normal and she is very okay now without any side effects whatsoever. If you have Tinnitus, do not hesitate to contact him on for advice and for his product. I hope this also helps someone out there. 87

  • Meghan Monroe

    My daughter suffered terribly from tinnitus for more than 23 years which started after she turned 5 we all thought it will end but got even worse as days went by. We tried all several treatments and therapy prescribed by various doctors we met and spent thousands of dollars but to no avail, she lost total concentration and screamed most times. She usually tells me she hears hissing and ringing noises. This were steady noise that disrupted her entire life, even at night she screams even more because the sounds become louder because everywhere is quiet and she slept less because of this. I was able to contact Dr.Joseph. on the matter and his medicine was able to restore her back to normal and she is very okay now without any side effects whatsoever. If you have Tinnitus, do not hesitate to contact him on for advice and for his product. I hope this helps someone out there.

  • Leonard Chandler

    This might also works for other Tinnitus sufferer out there, I am 38 years old, I suffered from permanent tinnitus for about 10 years, mostly in my right ear… which means I’ve got this constant ringing in my ears, which has also made me somewhat deaf. It’s like this Whee! noise in my head all the time. My T was more steady, this is due to prolonged exposure to the loud volume of concerts. Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I wish I’d thought about it earlier. There were days when I didn’t know whether I would survive, I was so tormented by this symptoms. When I lay down to sleep it bothers me the most, As I lay my head on the pillow, it cancels out all the other noise but the Tinnitus. The GoodNews is that after using William Herbal medicine, Tinnitus is gone, try it also it may work for you. There are real cure and do not be discouraged. Hang in there… Better days will come for you too (email:

  • Mary

    The body of all of audiology practice work is based on noise and sounds. The goal is to bring the most dynamic sound portfolio possible, to those who cannot experience it naturally. To understand how to amplify noise and sound, we need to understand how it works. Read more about it here:

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  • Dustin Hurford

    Damn autocorrect has called you San, Ean, my apologies

  • Dustin Hurford

    I have a very close friend who was on his way up to being well known here in Melbourne, Australia in the last few years he has developed tinnitus. His is quite bad as he struggles with crowded conversation let alone playing music. I, as an ex military person know some of the horrible effects of this hearing problem. The problem however with my friend is that he believes it’s ended what he loves. He’s sold almost everything to do with his trade, he’s even given stuff away. He has now a debilitating hearing, no equipment and loss of self, this has led to massive depression. This does concern me as he is a good friend. I know this is an old blog and probably past it’s time, but I am wondering if you could give me any helpful tips or hints to guide my friend into not giving up all hope of losing his love and passion for music


  • Dustin Hurford

    i must complement you on this article. I have a very close friend (Jeremy K Australian DJ), He has decided to give up music totally due to tennitus. I know for fact that this has had a major impact on his life. After watch him sell his records and turntables this upset me greatly as he was a great DJ but most of all he’s given up something he passionately loved doing. i would love to gain any advice so as to help him through this as he is a good friend and i’d hate to see anyone give up something that they loved to do


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  • Mariyan Hristov

    Same problem with me. After 10 years of gigs I have the Tinnitus.
    Bought some music premium earplugs from pluggerz but I don’t hear enough of the music using them, especially when playing deep house with more liquid sounds and ambience. For the past years most of my gigs lasted for more than 6 hours sometimes even 8-10.
    I guess I am going to have a break now and hope the tinnitus goes away. If someone knows a way to cure it, please share coz it’s a bit depressing and stressful. Thanks Ean for sharing the experience.

  • john wick

    With this regimen and a few years off, my condition has greatly improved – with almost none of the symptoms previously mentioned.

    gladys cobb

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  • Ch

    How about just turning down the volume at clubs?

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  • andrewg798

    I returned from a music festival last week and my ears were buzzing. They still are, I have drops from the Dr. and pills to help me calm down, it has given me an awful fright and I hope it goes away. This article at least gives me a much more positive outlook. I am only really starting to get serious about my dj hobby, I would hate for it to be all over before it properly begins????

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  • this eBook, 5 foods will dramatically make your Tinnitus worse you can use as reference

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  • Just found this article and wanted to post my 50cent… I have earplugs that reduce even over the frequency spectrum but nevertheless I can’t mix properly when I use them. So what I do is having them plugged in before and after the gig the whole time. Even on my way home so my ears can recover. And I hydrate a lot which also helps.

  • Victor25


    Very good article.
    For me, something very strange has happened.
    As I read DJ blogs and sites, I stumbled onto the DJ hearing problems.
    I started to read about tinnitus and covered my ears to see if I have it, and there it was.
    It started to ring in my ears since I read this article. I high pitched one, (like an old TV turned on)
    I’m a DJ, I have done many gigs years ago but i DO NOT remember having any tinnitus problem.
    My last club gig (loud music gig) was 5 years ago.
    No problem till I read this article. It’s very strange and confusing. It was in the middle of the night when I read the article.
    I remember having a very good hearing, like months ago when I was a little stressed, I couldn’t sleep because I heard the fridge or the clock in the other room, but NO SIGN of the high pitched noise….
    I am wondering if it’s like a psychological matter. You know, sometimes everything is in your head….
    I remember having a little sensitivity sometimes to loud high pitched sound but nothing out of the ordinary.
    So, I am stuck with this tinnitus for like one month, I hear it when it’s quiet, but, since 2 days when I went out in a summer beach party, my tinnitus has increased in volume and I can hear it in the day also. And now, loud high-pitched sound bother me.
    I went out multiple times last year and the music was louder then 2 days ago, and I remember staying all night and I did not have any problems.
    Right now after 1,5 hour of beach party my tinnitus is louder.
    I can’t explain this.
    Does somebody have an idea?


    • teknik1200

      I could always hear ringing if I tried to but it wasn’t there all the time.

      Now my ear rings loud enough to hear it when I’m riding my motorcycle at 40 MPH. It’s the first thing I realize when I wake in the morning and it’s always there and it’s loud.

  • teknik1200

    On this subject also be aware you can stop gigging, not step into a club for a few years and wake up with tinnitus in your ear because you damaged it in the past.

    I use my right ear to que beat mixing and only my right ear rings. It started one morning 18 months ago and never left.

  • sammsousa

    i really think most people dont realize how serious this is!!! even myself…

  • Kosho

    Why do people think they need to be in a social environment with music played at such a high volume that you cannot have a conversation? OK, that sounds like my grandmother. But good question nevertheless, maybe even the key question. So you want to dress up, go out, pay money, enter a room full of people, maybe dance but more likely sit or stand and drink and say very little (and when you do, have to shout)? I was a part of that scene for over 5 years as a dj and vj and frankly, I got bored. Now I’m into more acoustic music with great vocals and lots of nuance and I connect with way more interesting and talented people and basically have way more fun. Grow up! Too bad my hearing was damaged before I did.

  • Bob Humid

    A good read indeed as usual, but the lack of understanding of the neurology behind the tinnitus-phenomena drove me to write this blog-entry. hope it helps to understand the problem even further… it’s not so simple…

    “Once again I stumbled over an article that warned every sound-professional (and DJ) about the dangers of catching a Tinnitus at the workplace. While the article is pretty profound and covered all relevancies towards ear-protection, the “truth” was only captured closely but not entirely. We need to know one very important thing: Tinnitus is mainly a neurological condition, not alone dependent on loud volumes at long listening periods. It’s basically comparable to phantom-pain.”

    MORE AT:

  • Weaver2

    I’ve had mild tinnitus my entire life. I never really knew the cause. I remember first noticing it when I was 5 or 6 years old. I’m 26 now and I think it’s gotten gradually (slightly) worse, but it’s not a very enjoyable thing to have.

    That being said, I’ve never known what life is like without it, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m missing. Also, my hearing is still pretty good. I saved my ears after one particularly loud rave and 3 days of exceptionally loud tinnitus (louder than my normal tinnitus) that thankfully went away, I decided to never again go out without earplugs. I can detect pitch fine, can still tune a guitar by ear, and can still hear pretty well in general without constantly having to ask people to repeat themselves like a deaf grandpa.

    My advice: get high DB reduction musicians ear plugs and keep the volume down.

    There are laws (in my country, Canada) dictating the maximum loud a club sound system should be, but as far as I know no entity seems to actually enforce these. I would love if the cops would go to clubs on a weekend with a portable sound level meter and force the clubs to turn it down, maybe even issue a small fine (that escalates for repeat offenses).

    I’m fine with my earplugs, but think about all the uninformed people on the dancefloor who are going to wake up one day with tinnitus that will never go away. The last time I went to a club only one of the bartenders was wearing earplugs (just the 33 DB orange ones, which are pretty good for just saving your ears, but won’t let you hear the music that well).

  • Matt

    I have been unconsciously protecting my ears from overpowering bass frequencies for a long time. I just like turning the bass down, I think it compliments songs a lot more than the constant thumping of loud bass.

  • Andypea

    I’m probably going to have to give up DJing as my tintius has rapidly got worse. I regularly play 6+ hours and use custom ear plugs but my ears have become too sensitive to noise. Needless to say, I’m gutted.

  • SDNB

    Hopefully this invention could possibly help some of my fellow dj’s out there! Its something i came accross while doing research on tinnitus as my school research paper!

  • Blesstheeardrum

    Hello creator of the site.

    I’m really happy I found your site. I’ve been talking about this a lot over the years but most people pass it off. I’ve had my bad experiences with engineers pushing the limits. Harsh 1k – 20k god knows what db, drunk, Great I cant produce for the next few weeks…

    I’m really feeling like things need to change with it. I’ve sketched out some idea’s of speaker placement arrangement and volume modulation.

    Does it really have to be that loud?

    Should powerful speakers be controlled by someone who is aware of the damage they can cause? Sounds silly, but I don’t see many

    I’m just a bit fed of going to nights and feeling sorry for everyone’s ears.

    Be good to hear some more in depth views from you on this.

    Nice one for putting this online. This needs way more attention globally.


    This article provides a lot of great information! A side note though (Or more of a question): I recently had my hearing checked for tinnitus. I visited Dr. Charles Kimmelman in NYC. He recommended that I use over-the-ear headphones for DJing because they are more protective than the in-ear’s. He said that they provide more insulation of the ear canal, and reduce noise more effectively. So what would really be better to protect your hearing, in-ears or over-the-ears? Here is a Link to who he is, if you would like to check out his credibility: I’m just curious because I see the pros and cons for both, and ultimately, I just want the best protection for my ears. Thanks DJTT!

  • i hear u

    using your software to protect your hearing is not only limited to using the sync feature in, say, traktor. if you were to look at the waveform of a song, certain programs, like ableton can immediately expose a track that has been mastered to be loud. if you look at the waveform and the peaks don’t look like peaks but instead look like they ran over the threshold but got cut off – you have a track that has been mastered to be loud. take a dance track from the 80’s or 90’s and compare to a dance track from today – huge difference in the mastering. this is a huge issue in the industry, IMO, especially given the fact that so many of today’s sounds are produced by computer software and have no relationship to natural sound.

  • I played a set New Years Eve for the first time, and whenever there came a hi-sound i would get this super high pitched and loud sound in my headphones. Can anybody explain to me why it only came through my headphones? It hurt like hell but i didn’t really do much about it.

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    There is a theory that you can use white noise to help reduce the damage of Tinnitus. It’s not a complete cure, but it’s at least worth exploring.

  • T

    hey der buddy… can you suggest me some good “in ear monitors” for sound/song mixing & mastering ? thnx in advance….

  • John

    another advice I would give…. please don’t ever think of firing a gun without wearing ear protection especially if you are already expereriencing tinnitus from other reasons. In many movies you see people firing all kinds of guns in all kinds of circumstances without wearing ear protection. That has made most of us into thinking that wearing earplugs or something to protect your ears when firing guns is something you can do without. Two or three shots with a big gun can cause you permanent hearing loss and tinnitus very easily

  • Harry Rait

    I’ve just started learning how to Dj, & I’m in it because I love to play music for people and to make new music of my own. I was just going through some other articles and found this one. After I read the symptoms, I realized that I’m suffering from the same ill-effects as you’ve mentioned. When there is complete silence, and I’m just sittin’ there, I keep hearing this whistling sound. Now I’m not sure if I do have tinnitus, but I’m getting shit scared that I just might. I mean being forced to retire before even starting out? I usually listen to music on my ipod for about 2-3 hrs a day, and not even in a single stretch. The volume is just high enough, so that i can barely hear a conversation. So, are there any remedies or tricks or anything anyone could recommend to me? Please.

  • Nimbus

    Having quality headphones has been a lifesaver for me from the beginning.. for the last 20 years I have been really sodding anal about my headphones. 
    For gods sake – dont use beats or skullcandys or the other crummy gimmick brands.. they are not made for DJ’s.
    If you spent less than $300 on your cans you are putting your ears at risk.

    Headphones should be able to handle the whole frequency range without distortion… its distortion that will chew your ears before volume. Distortion also makes it hard to hear the track.. which results in having to turn up the volume even louder.
    Turning off the bass in the tracks you are cuing will relieve stress, and learning to mix just in the headphones without monitor speakers will save a lot of bad exposure.I know this is a bit tough on cheap mixers without cue split… so dont get a cheap mixer ;-).. your ears are worth a big piece of your investment!I have never been in a club with monitor speakers that were higher quality than my headphones!! But luckily most clubs have decent mixers

    All though I have been careful for so long a couple of my residencys exposed my monitor to too much noise… now a few years later I can really tell the damage.
    Even though my left ear still tests off the charts for sensitivity my right reads about normal… but the un-balance between my two ears means I can no longer have a conversation in a moderately noisy environment.. like a bar. I can no longer process a clear stereo image so I cant filter out noise to hear people speaking.Such a slight imbalance has not stopped me from DJing, but it has certainly caused a loss of enjoyment of music and sound.

    .. or is it just that modern music sounds like people taking a crap haha!

  • JazzD

    I’ve been using In-Ears the last 6 years. I will never go back to regular cans. I recently got the JH Audio Custom IEMs and they are awesome. I use them with a small passive limiter (Preservear). Really happy with my setup…though it takes some getting use to.

  • JazzD

    I’ve been using In-Ears the last 6 years. I will never go back to regular cans. I recently got the JH Audio Custom IEMs and they are awesome. I use them with a small passive limiter (Preservear). Really happy with my setup…though it takes some getting use to.

  • what?

  • Tgrizz2

    one of my tricks is to lower the monitors all the way and turn my headphones all the way down. I then take a 10 second pause with them on and slowly turn the music back up. its amazing how our ears get accustomed to the loudness level. 

  • JN

    That was an excellent read, mainly because it was from personal experience.

    Thank you for the effort put into this article, I am going to think twice before I pump up my speakers!

  • Jaytripwire

    There is a natural product called Clear Tinnitus, its a blend of herbs grapeseed oil etc that helps, avoid stimulants,booze,caffeine sugar and that will bring down the day to day ringing.

  • Jeffrey Fina

    I got tennitus from my service in Iraq. It was from some small arm fire without ear plugs but mainly was from heavy equipment and power tools used as an engineer in Tikrit. Lucky for me, I was young when I went (19) and I dont have it so bad. I do run a fan at night to help me drown it out and sleep. So from someone who worked around prolonged loud noises, I can agree with Ean in saying don’t be naive. Listen to the stories and trust those who know. Otherwise you will surly regret it.

  • Alex

    First off, the “American” pronunciation isn’t even correct in America, American doctors all say it the “British” way.

    Everything you’ve laid out here is crucial, but more so for hearing loss.  Tinnitus has a psychological component as well as a physical component (or so leading researchers believe — see Abraham Shulman and Kevin Hogan), which is why it manifests in many different ways for different people, and why a person’s symptoms may not all perfectly match up to the inciting sound exposures.

    Nevertheless, after getting tinnitus, continued loud exposure can easily make it flare up, and these precautions are great for that.

    I’m a full time DJ and I have tinnitus and I have custom earplugs.

    Btw to the commenter Ivan Brodsky — damage to your ears from sound exposure is a function of both length of exposure and decibels, so like you can take 1 hour at a certain volume or 2 hours at less volume etc (forgive me for not having the real numbers but I bet it’s searchable) before exposing yourself to damage.  And yes definitely 4 hours of Excision without earplugs can cause damage (as can 4 hours at a heavy metal concert, etc…not because of the music, just because of the extreme volume at all frequencies)

  • Matthealien

    thanks for posting this . Back in 2002 i toured europe with a friend and had an amazing time . I didnt speak to him for a while and wandered what he was up to and finally got hold of him and found out he had lost 60% of his hearing which started with the ringing . i got the custom earplugs right away and try to wear them as much as possible . i gig a lot and it does feel like you can get more into it without wearing them but your hearings more important.
    Like the guy below says leaving your headphones on blocks the monitors a bit and even a toque!!! 

  • erny

    Great article! Unfortunately too late for me to prevent damage, but I have seen superb suggestions in the comments.

    People comment they have tinnitus before their 20ties.. that’s sad. How do we raise awareness amongst DJ’s and other performers BEFORE they and their public get problems?

  • Very topical and important stuff for everyone to know.  Wish I would have had this post a few years back, would’ve saved a lot of research time.  

    I use custom Westone plugs with 15db attenuators.  I recommend them highly for concerts/clubs although I must admit it’s been pretty difficult fully integrating them into my live performance. They definitely make me feel a bit isolated from the crowd and hinder my ability to monitor the main room output,  I’ll often pop them in when I’m not mixing, an additional effort to reduce the length of high volume exposure.  

    I think what it’s all about is being educated on the topic, because once it’s in your frame of mind, your more likely to take better precautions in the future.  One step at a time.  Thanks Ean for spreading the knowledge.


  • mh

    first of all its ridiculous that djs think they need gigantic “DJ Headphones.” Being both a dj and sound engineer i am certain that noise isolating ear buds are the best. they also give you more mobility and are easier to listen with one ear if need be. personally i can check cue and master without the need for taking one headphone off. ive been using in ear headphones for many years and always keep my cue level at 1 out of 10. they give better bass and much more clear and accurate monitoring. and my ears do not ring at the end of the night.

    but most wannabe djs cannot think for themselves and just buy into some ridiculous notion of image that they have been brainwashed to choose to use some obnoxious looking beats by dre headphones.

  • very helpful. good stuff to know.

  • DJ T R A K

    Cool article. I have been using In Ears for years now. It has helped lowering my tinnitus a lot. I use the Shure 535s along with an awesome little limiter I found called preservear. Neat combo!

  • Brad Ferris

  • Brad Ferris

    I’ve gone to custom in ear monitors when I’m playing. Also have a set of full shell custom noise plugs and a modular pair of custom musicians plugs that come with three different sets of attenuation filters (low/medium/high db reduction) that u can swap in and out depending on how loud the environment is.

    Will never go into a club without some sort of protection.

    Some good progress being made at Stanford however on regenerating the stereo ilia in the cochlea. See below.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, interesting article. I was just looking at Google News and I saw that Tinnitus is getting some press because of some new therapies. I have an interesting Tinnitus story as well, and possibly some help for anyone going through it. I live in Milwaukee, WI. My Uncle is a Physician and has a medical practice in Waukesha, WI. A couple years ago he was at a BBQ with some family friends. The friends were setting off fireworks. There was a misfire with a rocket and it went off course and ended up blowing up next to my uncles head, the next two years were a nightmare. He developed tinnitus in one ear because of the explosion, it started to drive him crazy, literally. He became extremely depressed, and basically suicidal. In fact, his wife called the police and said she was afraid her husband was going to kill himself, the police came and took him from his home and put him under psych watch. The tinnitus stuck with him. My uncle went to see specialists who told him nothing, he is a doctor after all so he used his Doctors skillz (that’s a clinical term) and contacted the Mayo Clinic, nothing, then he contacted Walter Reed Hospital, the military hospital that handles all the vets, they deal with tinnitus all the time from soldiers who have had bombs go off near their heads. Again, nothing. My uncle was at my house last month and said “it became clear that no one knows what the hell to do with tinnitus” his language is more colorful but I don’t want to trip any spam filters on the blog :).

    At any rate, he was at my house talking to me about how the tinnitus did actually make him suicidal, he said that for severe cases, there is a surgery that clips a nerve in the ear but there is a 30% chance you will lose all hearing and i think only a 60% chance that it will work at all. The odds were bad enough that, personally I wouldn’t consider it as a last resort, neither would he, but he did say that if he didn’t figure something out he would “blow his f-ing brains out”. He is a family man who loves his kids, so for him to say this, it’s no joke. OK, so on to the “miracle”.

    My Uncle said that one of the treatments is for the sufferer to wear a small device that emits noise or a frequency that, from what I can tell, reverses the phase of the sound from tinnitus. He said that a lot of people think that it’s caused by something in the ear canal, but that’s incorrect. I believe he said it was actually caused by the brain, and this is why eventually this device will not work because the brain compensates for it and the tinnitus will over ride the noise device. Here is where the details get a bit dodgy for me, but I have the gist of it. 

    My uncle said that he was running out of options when he stopped by a hearing aid store in the mall, I think. I’m not sure why, but he ended up picking up one of those miracle ear hearing aids. I guess they have come quite a long way, because now you can make adjustments to them yourself with a computer. I don’t know about that, but my Uncle is not terribly computer savvy and he was able to do this. Whatever he did, has basically solved his problem. He said that he accidentally wore it in the shower once and ruined it, but other than that, he has basically solved his tinnitus problem. I really cannot stress enough how bad this was, tinnitus really did almost drive him to commit suicide, I can only imagine. I try to remember this when I am listening to my headphones too loud. Hearing is a gift, like sight, and you should appreciate it and be delicate with it. My uncle is a really respected physician and he does not mess around with medical theory, he is about actual practice and results. This is why people love him. 

    If anyone reading this is suffering from tinnitus, I would be happy to give you his information. I’m sure he would be happy to fill in the blanks from my version of his story. I know that when I saw him last month, he was back to his old self. 

  • Possu1984

    For those that are already suffering from this there is hope and as it seems in near future:)

  • I’ve been playing Drum n Bass in clubs for 12 years and here’s what I do and it seems to help:

    a) PAY MONEY TO GET DECENT EAR PLUGS. Mine cost around $300 as they’re custom fitted and I don’t go to the club without them, ESPECIALLY when i’m not playing.

    b) Don’t crank your monitors. I know it sounds stupid but WAY too many people do it. All you really need is enough volume to achieve separation from the house system. If the club just opened, you don’t need a fighter jet screaming in your ear.

    c) WEAR THE EARPLUGS YOU BOUGHT. The feeling of your ears ringing in the morning stings juuust a little bit more when you know you could have prevented it.

  • SoundCure Inc.

    Tinnitus is a big problem among musicians, audio engineers, DJs, etc. SoundCure has a new tinnitus treatment solutions that may be of interest to those suffering with tinnitus and seeking relief. Please see  This is a FDA cleared medical device that is available from audiologists. 

  • Chraibiyacine

    Thanks for the tip, I just bought DB reducing earplugs on amazon

  • ewok

    Some great tips hear. I bought my moulded earplugs about 5 years ago and honestly think they are the best thing I have ever purchased. My mates ask me what they are for sometimes and I say they are like a condom for my ears.

  • DJ Urkel Dee

    I have it also and it sucks… I thank God everyday that it’s just annoying and not debilitating… All you young DJ’s PLEASE take heed and protect your ears!

  • BecsG

    Have you seen this campaign

  • Hypogriet

    Dj’s could benefit from Soundness app! (available in Itunes store) By practicing relaxing the muscles around your ears and jaw by making sound, the ringing in your ears can become a lot less.

  • Jon Wayne

    It’s too late for me, I pray someone discovers a cure..

    • Bob Humid

      Not quite true, colleague! 🙂 There’s hope even if you have a chronical Tinnitus

      Breath this in, please:

      • stu

        They don’t completely understand the mechanisms of tinnitus. I have (2) tones in my left ear.

    • Mariyan Hristov

      for me too…

  • Dniche1

    headphones are not good for your ears anyway, and in ear monitors are even worse because the distance from the diaphragm to the ear drum is shortened, not to mention because they are in ear, this means they will probably end up staying in your ear for your entire set which will also shorten the amount of time for ear fatigue to kick in

  • Danilo Verdes

    I got a tip for you guys out there. Personally I never play without ear plugs. Try wear them a few hours (or maybe one is enough) before your gig starts and your ears will get used to it. I made good experience with this ritual cause I also thought I couldn’t trust my ears with plugs in it. Give it a try

  • Jesseslash

    Outstanding article. Well done.

  • R3Bonaire

    The article is about the DJ’s ears but what a DJ or live band can’t hear is the sound that the audience is receiving.
    To protect the audience ears in my opinion each venue over 300 people should have a FOH engineer. No DJ or Live band can hear the sound color or loudness because they are always behind the main Speakers.Booth monitors are way different sounding than the main speakers. A FOH engineer is capable of adjustements on the fly to overcome any harmfull peaks. I find that OSHA level limits are based on Industry norms. If they measure it is in DB @ 1meter at the setting of the meter. Could be weighted DB or at 1Khz or pink noise. Realize that it makes a huge difference the way it is measured. Also there is only a few that will be exposed at 1 meter distance from the speaker. EQ and proper muli band compression on the main could reduce any clipping or distortion. Have these setting bad than the sound is terrible and also more harmfull to the ear. It is not always the DB’s that can be harmfull. One can be exposed to a clean and clear sound much longer than a screaming or clipping sound. For the DJ ,Like the article above explains it lies in your own hands to protect your own ears.
    Thanks for another great article.

  • HenriMartel

    I was a little paranoid about hearing loss but didn’t really do much about it. I read this, watched “it’s all gone Pete Tong” immediately bought some ear plugs!

    • Anonymous

      Damn…that movie made me buy a bunch of cocaine.. earplugs would have been a much better investment. 

  • Caldwell

    This post was excellent. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge greatly.
    Below is a link to a set of In-ear-monitors, which enable you to cue your next track and completely block out ambient noise.
    HOWEVER, they have a microphone which will allow you to determine the volume of ambient noise that you wish to include with what is playing or what you are cueing.
    Awesome right? I thought so! Expensive, but what price can you pay for the ability to hear?
    Hope the link can help some:

  • steiaa

    I have used custom molded ear plugs for some years. It can feel awkward at first, but a good tip is too use them a lot in the beginning, also in situations where you don’t actually need them. Try using them while watching TV, hanging out with friends, etc. It might look stupid, but it’s worth it. That way it won’t feel that awkward when using them while playing.

  • Archie

    great article, I’ve had higher pitched ringing tinnitus since I was 22 caused by messy monitors and at times I thought it would prevent me from carrying on djing and producing.

    As other people have said managing stress levels are key for keeping it on the down low, I found my exam finals was one of the worst chapters because of the stress. The message is don’t worry be happy!

    I only really notice it at night when trying to sleep in a silent room and your brain zeros in on it, and it gets louder and LOUDER! I tried putting music on to get my brain to focus on something but found this did little for helping me sleep as i was just listen to the music!

    If I could offer one bit of advice to tinnitus sufferers who struggle to get to sleep because of it, buy a clock radio, tune it to white noise and turn it to a very low volume, just audible. This has revolutionised my sleeping, your brain zeros in on the quiet white noise rather than the tinnitus and I drift off with ease now, even after a long day producing or after having a mix.

    I wear 25db custom ear plugs in clubs and would refuse to enter a club without them! Djing in them at first is tricky and takes a while to get used to, practice practice practice

  • Joe

    I have been DJing for 15 years now, and I never go out without my custom made earplugs. I’ve never spent 150 Euros on a better piece of gear. I usually use them up until 30 minutes before my set, then take them out to adjust to the levels in the club and put them back in right after finishing my set. I never use the near-field monitors.

    But, of course, it’s always important to watch the Master level, gains and EQs. Exhausting the crowd with high levels just makes them leave early, because very loud sound is really tiresome.

    Just wanted to say Thanks for sharing this personal story and insight, Ean.

  • Djowensmith

    Can you recommend some top notch in ear monitors?

  • Aarongarabedian

    Good article I’ve been worried of my hearing for a long time. Gotta take care of the money makers lol

  • Eric

    If you have tinnnitus and you keep DJing, it’s probably going to get worse. I was a DJ, I got tinnitus. I quit DJing and it’s been getting better each year. It’s just not worth the risk (unless you are a masochist).

  • Boris_bunnik

    I noticed some devices generate anti-pulses to reduce my tinnitus.
    For example my studio Imac produces a very high pulse that I can’t hear but it masks my tinnitus.

    Also the high pulsive sound of an active refridgerator masks the tinnitus. I noticed this during a peak period of one year. I became very focussed on anti-noise.
    I’m not sure if this would help for everyone but in that period this was a relief. I’m not saying you should take an refridgerator with you everywhere you go but the idea is that you look for available noise that can mask it.

    I was looking for other sources in my studio and came to the conclusing that the noise generated via the electricity/audio circuit in my monitors also masked it.

    There always is a certain amount of noise present in the air, especially in the cities. It masks the tinnitus too. Depending on your frequency.

    Especially when you are in a vacuüm it can become hard to deal with.
    However I found a way to fight it in silent area’s. Yoga and meditation.
    Accepting it begins in the silence. Learning to accept it and ignoring it.
    It all has to do with brain activity. An overactive brain after a stresfull day means more tinnitus.

    Avoid large amounts of stress! In anyway. It’s no use and no good. It can make the present tinnitus worse over a long term.

    I have experienced a few stressfull years with very serious consequences, more tinnitus.
    Ever since I was 14 I had to deal with it. Cause? Fireworks by a neighbour.
    Dj’ing is not the best hobby in combination with this.
    Doktors and medics weren’t really investigating and studying tinnitus by that time.
    They never gave me any advice to wear earplugs.

    The worst thing you can do when affected is to go into a club without earplugs and start conversations.  Especially when you are being affected by Hyperacusis in combination with Tinnitus it can become a pain in the ass.

    H&T go hand in in hand and it’s a nasty combination.
    It can affect your social life in a dramatic way. Birthdayparties and other social meetings become too intense for your hearing.

    When affected by “H” sound peaks become hard to deal with, you can simply say that the buffer your hearing has isn’t working properly. Try doing the dishes for example..

    Being oversensitive for noise is awefull but you learn more about your hearing and that you need to respect it. It can become less by the time. I found a way to deal with it and i’m more carefull with my hearing.

    It’s not a single use tool!. Respect your hearing and don’t treat it like a computer.
    Most of all, prevent and learn from other people’s experiences.

    Sigarettes do damage and so do clubs. Think about your lifestyle, it can affect your tinnitus badly.

    I don’t go into clubs and cafe’s without earplugs anymore. Also digital technology is a very healthy solution for dj’ing. It’s hard to bring it in an inspiring way but with good music everything is possible.

    Boris / Conforce

  • Great article, i myself got tinnitus a few months ago, i got a little ringing now and then. I was playing at a little local club when the owner wanted to show od his oversized sound system for some friends when he just cranked up the volume, when he cranked it, it snapped in my left ear and i knew from then on that i had tinnitus for ever. Wasnt happy about it, but sadly it happened. It can be avoided if you just use the gear with responsibility and learn to control the volume

  • I’m confused. Is it long exposure or very loud exposure?

    Say i go to the “100,000 watts of bass” Excision Tour. No ear plugs.

    It’s only 4 hours long, and I only go to big time shows with systems like that every few months. Is that 4 hours of exposure truly that bad? Or is it more of my habit of wanting to crank my ipod ALL day long that I should be worried about?

    I know both are harmful, or being in close proximity to a club system for hours multiple times a weak could be, but it somehow seems unlikely that such infrequent exposure as a massive concert every few months could have a significant long term impact on ones hearing or be a direct cause of Tinnitus.

    • Glenn1281

      It’s actually a combination of both. A friend of mine is an audiology doctor, and she always explained it like this… Someone could drive a semi truck for ten years with the window open and that person could have the same amount of damage to the ear as someone who had a gun fired right next to the ear drum.
      Years of low level abuse can be as bad as one night of intense abuse of the ears

    • Ivan is right. It’s the length of exposure that matters but the loudness determines how long before it becomes a problem. I

  • Anonymous

    and always check the headphone volume level before you plug your headphones in! the WORST is not realizing that the deaf DJ before you had the volume 3/4s of the way up and accidentally plugging into that.

  • This is something I have suffered with since I was a young due to ear infections.  I have worked in various audio fields, because of this I have always been very careful with my hearing.  Luckily it has not gotten worse and my hearing is still very sharp.  There are something that can help improve things if your Tinnitus is bad, white noise can be very helpful and some vitamins can help as well.  FYI alcohol can exacerbate the problem.

  • Ronald Edwards

    Typically, speakers with bad mid-range (and poorly EQed speakers) tend to produce the most amount of “ring” especially when turned up loud.

    That being said, if you already have a mild form of tinnitus, you can (according to my subjective experience) “recondition your ears to recover some hearing loss.” I experimented with this after going clubbing when I was younger and knew I had to run a “Speaker Conditioning set” the day after. Oddly enough, with clean sounding speakers and the speaker conditioner CD, I was able to make that ring go away. Perhaps I was young and was able to recover, but I don’t think it’s an accident that my ears were reconditioned by the dynamic range of sounds played as the set was only 10 minutes long.

  • Adam

    Bad with in-ear monitors: They are tied to the mixer. If they pop-out when you do a drastic move, your ears are going to get more damage.

  • Slak Jaw

    When I play in a loud club I use an in ear monitor in one ear and a musician’s earplug in the other ear. I find this to be the closest thing to traditional monitoring with cans. I can turn my headphone volume down between mixes and the IEM acts as an earplug. With the IEM I don’t have to turn my headphone volume up very high to hear the mix and I can hear the Booth monitor through my earplug

  • Some times I get ringing noise 2 weeks after a gig. It happens only once or twice. Does anyone have the same symptom?  

  • thanks for this. i’m battling this at the moment, great article. time to get serious about it…

  •  Great article Ean. I’ve been looking into in-ears for sometime.

  • Most DJ’s lose their hearing by blaring their monitors and headphones really loud. I don’t know about some of you but I don’t find it necessary to blare monitors and headphones while in the mix. It’s tough to tell some DJ’s at times. I love it when I am thru a mix and am able to turn the booth down.

  • Mihaly

    Thanks a lot for the input buddy, Ive been pondering this problem for months and had to use ear plugs under my cans to protect my ears, and could never hear the music properly even with my cans at max…and that was becoming a MAJOR problem, as I couldnt even cue tracks properly. Now im getting the Shure SE425s and Im really hoping they will do the trick. I am a little concerned about not being able to just “slip off” the right ear so I can listen to the main when mixing but Im sure Ill figure it out. Thanks for all the help and the great website. 

    • Anonymous

      Don’t slip off anything, just use the mix/monitor knob on the mixer, or split/cue, or cue up both the master and the channel at the same time.  Takes a little getting used to, but the mix is a lot better i’ve found because you aren’t worrying about the quality of the monitors that the club has, or the echo in the room if you don’t have monitors.

  • Tony Soul

    wonderful and insightful read

  • Anonymous

    I have tinnitus and I am pretty sure it is because of 6 years of working around F4 Phantoms in the Air Force (despite double ear protection). What is strange to me is although I have a constant tone in mainly my right ear, I also seem to be very sensitive to the mid frequencies in music. Sound strange?

    Take care of your ears. They simply aren’t repairable, unfortunately, and your hearing will get worse automatically as you get older. You don’t need to make the aging process worse.


    • The sensitivity to certain frequencies is called hyper acusis. I’m so sensitive to 16khz that it causes me physical pain. It’s fucking awful.

  • Guest

    Im dealing with this now as a side effect from a medication that does not want to go away. Doctor seems hopeful its just going to take some time but as a producer / dj its a little stressful which makes it worse lol

  • nolamotion

    As a lifelong musician and engineer, I’ve long been frustrated by the lack of awareness of the physics and physiology of sound amongst “professionals” behind a mixing board. Congrats on getting a clue, even if it is too late for most of y’all. However, what is lacking in the article and these comments seems to be any concern for the audience. If I hit you with my fist and cause a bruise that heals, I can be prosecuted and convicted for assault and battery. If I ruin your hearing for the rest of your life, I’m just a DJ or a sound tech. The fact is, digital technology is reproducing a broader range of frequencies louder than ever before in human history. Nothing destroys your hearing faster than low frequencies. Earplugs will not stop them, walls cannot contain them, bass is like an earthquake in your inner ear, destroying all hearing receptors. Do your homework, learn the OSHA guidelines and accept that you still will not be able to protect yourself our the audience in most situations until more people wake up. Thanks for the article, but please spread your concerns to the people that make all this possible—the audience!

    • so how do we go about protecting ourselves from this?

      • Lauti

         turning the master down, maybe?

      • mw

         If you’re with a few friends, get them all to individually go up and tell the sound tech it’s too loud. Maybe they’ll get a clue if they get enough complaints.

        I have super bad tinnitus now from playing very loud rock music myself, even with earplugs in all the time. I can’t even listen to quiet music in headphones anymore, without getting that uncomfortable feeling like someone’s poking my belly button, but in my ears. Turning it down really is the only solution to escape those bass sounds.

        • technicaltitch

          this is something i never realized until my tinnitus started – ear or headphones become really uncomfortable. it isn’t just a ringing but it really affects how you hear sound in a deeply psychological way.

          just saying this to emphasise the importance of protecting your ears.

    • Anonymous

      i always thought that high frequencies cause more damage than low frequencies…

    • Anonymous

      If I am reading your comment correctly, the best service you can do is to inform people that loud noises can and will cause permanent hearing problems. Whether or not someone chooses to heed that advice is a personal choice. This isn’t like a bartender situation where the judgement of the performer needs to be used to decide whether a patron has ‘had enough’. Loud noise, like drinking, drugs, texting while driving, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much soda, is harmful to your health. Whether or not you decide to limit or cut  this stuff out of your life is your decision. If a club or DJ was actively lobbying to have warnings taken down, or to bias studies that say that not only is 105db at long intervals not damaging, it actually causes weight loss, then they should be accountable. This country already encourages people to blame someone else for their stupid decisions, as much as possible. People need to exercise commone sense. We all know that loud noises are bad for your hearing, it’s just that a lot of people don’t care. Not my problem. Again, assuming I understand your comment, if I didn’t : Sorry!

      • nolamotion

         Evidently you have a problem with rights. Nobody has the right to ruin my hearing, or anyone else’s. Permanent hearing loss caused by ignorance about the physical forces of sound meets the legal definition of battery. Common sense says turn it down and quit hurting people. Nobody is being held accountable for the consequences of this ongoing assault. Club owners, DJs, audio technicians, musicians, we all need to step-up and take responsibility for the consequences of our actions and quit being so damned ignorant of the damage we are doing to others and to ourselves. This article said not a word about the audience–our customers, the source of our industry, the geese that lay the golden eggs that enable us all to do what we do. Most of the responses also were totally self-centered and ignored the fact that if you’re hurting yourself, you are also likely hurting the audience. I just wish more folks understood this situation from a more holistic and concerned perspective. Plus, some day, someone is going to create a legal precedent and, though I’m not a lawyer, I suspect it will involve what I said about battery. Warnings are inadequate in this dealing with the invisible nature of sound, venues must enforce standards and penalize personnel who violate them. When sound systems are too loud, people are being hurt, permanently. That is morally wrong, and any day now, will become legally wrong.

        • Matt

          It is also your right to leave if you find the music too loud. So if you are in the crowd, you are willingly listening to that music.
          Would you kindly shut the hell up about bogus legalities and look at what YOU can do to keep yourself protected?

          • lokey

            thats absurd. The person operating the PA has the responsibility to use it correctly, which means within the bounds of healthy volumes. Sure, on top of that, venues should be required to make earplugs available, and people need to take the protection of their own hearing more seriously, but it starts at the dj booth, dude.

        • lokey

          ive always thought that operating a high power PA should require some level of certification. Its no different than driving a heavy motor vehicle. Useful, but so easy to cause damage through negligence.

    • Nimbus

      This is a great point. i work in China now and its pure insanity. I have measured excess of 120 dBa, and these clubs are large single room clubs with constant sound pressure everywhere. There is generally no dance floor, so the concept is every table will have equal deafening noise.

      Add to this the new Digital age where every ROOKIE dj gets a slot where he/she plays their crummy 128kb stolen downloaded mp3 music that is distorted before it even gets to the speakers.

      Another point is that the staff work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.In clubs back home they generally have a dance floor where it is way too loud… but this is often balanced out by the fact the clubbers have the choice to leave the dance floor and hang out away from the main speakers, or even go to another room to have a ‘break’i believe clubs should put more effort into considering AND MAINTAINING their PA systems with calculated sound levels… and designated areas of low noise.

      All though music on the dance floor will always be verging on dangerous, patrons should be made aware that staying in front of the speakers all night WILL cause damage.. and they should perhaps spend more of their time at the bar destroying their liver and kidneys instead!

  • What about abrudbtly taking out earplugs for an hour or so? Will that initial shock of change of volume damage your ears?

  • jdh

    Great movie (fiction) that covers this topic of DJ’s and hearing loss, called It’s all Gone Pete Tong. Highly recommend and funny mock-umentary.

  • Great Article. It seems a lot of people mix with the mixers headphone volume cranked all the way up. It has happened to me countless time after switching out with someone and I plug my headphones and almost blow them. It amazes me, that people listen to the incoming track so loud. People need to be aware of the volumes. Louder is not always better

  • Erhm you are saying that you don’t have
    tinnitus anymore? As far as my knowledge goes concerning tinnitus, is that
    damage can’t be undone. Besides, most of the effect due to working in loud
    environments is still unknown as the effects might be apparent up till 20 or 30
    years in advance. And yes, sadly I have experience with tinnitus myself for almost
    fifteen years now (started at the age of eleven).

    Anyhow, wearing earplugs and tacking
    other precautions are a necessary harm.

  • Thank you for sharing your personal story with us… I started getting ringing in my ears when I was doing a residence on the weekends… 3 nights back to back. I started to learn about protecting my ears and cut down on the amount of gigs and how I would mix in the booth… This is an important thing and Im glad you shared a detailed experience with solutions … Great read Ean

  • Ad

    Great article, thanks. I’ve been worried about this a lot recently. I’m now switching between a set of Doc’s Pro plugs and some variable filter alpine pro ear-plugs when I go to gigs. They both alter the sound in slightly different ways so I switch between them depending on who’s playing.

  • Anonymous

    I have a constant very high pitch tone (about 15000 Hz) in my ears. When i’ve been exposed to loud music for a long time it sound differently, at a lower frequency (about 500Hz).

    It doesn’t really hinder me yet. As the article said, we hear with our brains. So I don’t notice it except for when it’s quiet and I focus myself on the sound, then it fades in and can get extremely loud. The harder I focus the louder the sound becomes. On average I only notice it maybe twice a month for 5 minutes maximum or when someone mentions tinnitus, like in this article. Thank you, Ean! 🙂

    I’m 21 years old and i’ve had it for 4 years now, I guess. I do wear earplugs when I go out in order to prevent further damage.

    Anyone has something similar?

    • Muldo87

      my annoying noise is around 15000 hz to … mines is pretty bad now keep abusing my ears:@, used to only hear it when i was trying to sleep but now i can hear it even if am having a conversation with someone 🙁 … i work as a scaffolder so i dont think that helps eithers with smashing hammers of poles all day … do you ever get sharp pains or that ?

      • Jeremy

        Awesome article, man. Very important that people read this. I have tinnitus too and wish I would’ve adopted this lifestyle a long time ago. This def serves as a reminder to get on my game and get the right stuff for my ears. Thank you.

      • Guest

        Same here @ 24yrs old. Sharp pains yes, 15-17k hz yes, louder than conversations yes. It’s inhuman to deal with without the possibility of turning it off or tuning it down. Probably breaks you before 40…

    • yea exactly what u say, im 25, and honestly i’ve had that my whole life, pretty sure everyone does, it must be part of our vibration, we are all oscillating at different frequencies, and like you sed, we only notice it if u focus on it, and the more you focus on it, the worse it gets…seems like people with Tinnitus are stuck in a constant state of being aware of the sound…the more u think about it the more it stays, but over all i think about this all the time, because i hear this tone all the time, even while i sit hear typing with my headphones on with (no sound) i hear the ringing , 🙂

  • Anonymous

      While researching tinnitus, I came across this technology originally used to treat Parkinson’s that they discovered helped with tinnitus. They can retrain your brain to not hear the misfiring nerves that cause the ringing with pulses of sound. The NHS in the UK is working on making it free to their patients. You can google some of the references and see the science behind it. Someone should hack the math and create a DIY version.

    • Kenpachi

      Ay bruh, are you Somali?

  • I have this issue now. Being a drummer since I was 14, I didnt think about wearing earplugs….then I went to an audiologist. He told me to wear plugs or
    TINNITUS will be evident. I didnt listen at the time and continued to rock on. Well after a few years the same thing happened, ringing sound fading into the backround noise of life.  I was scared….so back to the audiologist. he told me that if I dont quit now, or change my habits i wont be able to hear in 20 years. me being 27 now scared the shit out of me… I bought inear monitors, and never looked back. of course you can still damage your hearing with them….so keeping an eye on your listening volumes are key.

    this is a great article Ean. Thank you.

  • BIJ

    Ean, AWESOME ARTICLE. thanks

    I occasionally (couple times a month) get high pitched tones that last for a second or two then disappear. Is this tinnitus? I read somewhere that this is your ears re-tuning themselves but I’m not sure if this is true or not.

    I would also like to warn everyone to be careful when using effects, particularly filters. Things can get very loud and shrill very quickly at certain resonance settings. Years ago, I had a devilfish mod tb-303 and was monitoring at high volume in the studio. After a long session my ears were killing me and stayed that way for a couple of weeks.

    It’s not just club systems that can hurt….you have to be careful in the studio as well.

    • Anonymous

      According to my uncle who is a doctor that suffers from sever tinnitus, it is something that we all have, all the time, it’s just filtered out. If you have ever heard the sound that complete silence makes, to me it’s a buzzing sound like tree frogs that gets louder and louder until a noise stops it, that’s tinnitus. 

      • to me it sounds EXACTLY like a 10-20 year old tv being turned on

        • Mary Ann

          imo no ,every one hears that sound, that’s not tinnitus

  • Mattmangrease

    I’ve had tinnitus for almost nine years now, I got it from diving in a pool…. It sucks. I find cleaning my ears daily helps.

  • padi_04

    I never go clubbing without my earplugs. I use them for rehearsals and on stage with the band. If I’m DJing I leave them on till I have to get on the decks and then do all the monitoring with my cans, turning them off when they are not needed. Yes, I’m paranoid on the subject, and I’m proud of it.

  • Ganderkat

    going for a cigarette every 40 minutes is healthier than staying inside a club all night!

    • Rubz

      Cigarettes however are bad for tinnitus too!

      • Jujubean

        Unless you stick them in your ear.

        • Mike


  • celtic-dj

    this is one of the most important articles i read…good work.
    for more then 6 years , every time i dj , i turn of the monitors completely…in the underground psy-trance scene (outdoor parties) the volumes are even higher …so i developed different techniques for mixing… preparing the set so hardly any beat-matching is necessary – aligning beatgrids , gain normalizing , preparing loop and cue points , basically working hard at home before each gig !! another important fact is SMOKING CIGARETS SLOWLY DAMAGES THE EARS ASWELL…

  • Farko

    very simple little trick i use if the booth is sonically uncomfortable for
    whatever reason, is to leave my headphones over my ears after i’ve finished a
    mix, but with no sound. This provides some protection, and it’s easy to flick a
    cup off for a few seconds to check the sound in the room. That, and i don’t
    have my headphone volume too loud. My phones stay on for most of my set, and my
    ears don’t have to take a pasting during the entire time i’m in the booth.

    • DJ Giff

      Agreed on this one Farko.

      I play a monthly 6-hour set with the PA speakers right beside me, so this is a must for me.

      I had a bout of tinnitus a year ago and it ain’t funny – thankfully it hasn’t returned by using my headphones as you’ve described. I’ve read for some people tinnitus can cause stress and even depression.

      I’ve found since I got myself a pair of closed cup headphones (totally cover my ears and isolate the sound really well) and wearing them for most of my set has really helped reduce the noise problem. I tried a number of open cup ‘phones such as the Sennhesier HD25s and found they weren’t protecting my ears enough. I finally settled on the closed cup Sennheiser HD280-S which are more expensive but probably the best DJ kit investment I’ve made.

  • PaulJay

    Not just Dj’s. What about a normal audience going to a concert with absurd loud sound system?

    Everybody knows this. 
    When i see kids in the train with 100 Db earplugs, they should know that they will be deaf at 30 or jump of a building because of tinitus. It’s your own damn fault.I’m a musician myself and i like to make music for as long as possible. I like loud music now and then but you have to know the limits and protect your ears.

  • Djpakman

    Regarding the inears subject i bealive that if the DJ has a mic somewhere on the stage he can patch it trought to the inears and get a general prespective on how things are going in the crowd without removing the inears. there are mics for that purpose so why not use them?

  • Great article. I highly recommend these ear plugs, as they are super-comfortable and easy to pull out (I’ve had problems with other ones getting lodged in my ears). Been using these for several months now, and I usually play two four-hour sets a week! 

  • Josh Kennedy

    i have been suffering the ill-effects of tinnitus for years, and frankly – it sucks! 

    i find it extremely hard to get to sleep because of the constant ringing. during the day i can block it out for the most part, but when there’s no other background noise around it can be unbearable at times. 

    i sleep with the tv or music on at low volume so i can block out the ringing. 

    luckily for me, i visited an audiologist last year for a hearing test (as i was getting quite concerned) and my test proved that my hearing is above average – and in fact can hear frequencies most people in my age group (early 30’s) shouldn’t be able to pick up at all, which was a sigh of relief. but unfortunately i’ll never be able to hear total silence if im out in the desert.

    i kind of wish i hadn’t been so stubborn against wearing hearing protection all those years seeing gigs regularly since i was about 15, and spending at least 2 nights a weekend in a club for a good part my adult life. maybe if i hadn’t of been, my sanity would still exist! 

    there are a lot of factors that can cause tinnitus too (like stress, and even a high salt diet), but minimising your exposure to loud environments is a major factor in avoiding it all together. 

    take care of your ears guys (and gals)

    • Andy Cusick

      Hi Josh and others with tinnitus,

      There are options for tinnitus treatment outside of conventional medicine.
      Please read about my colleague Kevin Barry from Ireland:

      Who overcame tinnitus through practicing Shaolin Wahnam Qigong (Chi Kung).
      A dynamic meditation that heals through the bodies’ own innate powers of regeneration and recovery.


  • Tim Koppelaar

    I’ve been partying for over 10 years now and a few years ago I noticed that my hearing wasn’t that good any more. I decided to buy me a set of custom molded ear plugs with a 15 dB cut off. Since then I never leave home for a party without these earplugs. The high pitched ringing noise after a party has disapeared totally and my hearing has actually improved! So I as a club visitor I can defenitley recommend them, every nightclub visitor should have a set.

    • vjM

      Hey Djs,
      I realize this article is somewhat old, but I am moved to make a comment. Thank you Ean for the article.

      While I am grateful for the enlightenment, in a way I am also upset. -LOL How could that be you may ask? Well, now that am aware of the phenomenon, the awareness of tinnitus makes it affect me. I have done a bit of research and proved true that you don’t hear the noise when you are distracted i.e. not thinking about it. So by that theory, if I never read this article, I may not have become “aware”. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the information so that I can take action to prevent further damage.

      I am also upset that no one told me about this earlier in my career. When I think about all of the gigs that were just too damn loud, I am pissed about what that was doing to my ear. I think that more needs to be done to warn others about this issue.

      Now on to my comment about what to do. I have been trying various of the so called HiFi or, musician ear-plugs. I have not tried custom earplugs, but have spent upwards of US$50 on off-the-shelf type. They all advertise being able to hear the full spectrum of sound, only at a lower level. Well I can tell you it is not quite so. The bottom line is that the Hi Hz which are important for mixing, are usually at lower than desired. This gives you a sense of heavy bass sound and consequently a muffled sound. This makes sense since Hi Hz is directional, and Lo Hz is not. So anything blocking Hi Hz will be more effective than blocking Lo Hz. It is the same reason why tweeters must be elevated above dance audience heads and bass speakers are ok at ground level.

      The best off-the-shelf earplugs I have found are from Their approach is to reduce the Mid Hz which can cause the most damage while still passing some of the Hi Hz. I compared them side by side with V-Modas and ETYmotic and the EarAsers were far better at passing Hi Hz. I’m still not completely satisfied with the EarAsers, but they offer some additional options which I plan to explore. I find myself regularly easing the plugs out of my ear a bit to let more of the sound I need to hear into my ear for accurate mixing.

      Would be interested to hear anyone else’s experience with earplugs that “really” work for letting you hear more clearly. There needs to be a plug that does better at “balancing” the Lo & Hi Hz, so that Lo Hz is not perceived as overpowering the Hi Hz.

  • One thing that is important is that every Dj should think  that the ears are like a pencil  the more you use,  the more it reduces its capabilities, and life     
    Ive been in the Dj biz since 1985/86  and since 15 years ago  I realize how delicate can be,  so i reduce the monitors,  eq the right way so i dont feel a drill on my ears, etc,, earplugs before and after the set,  OR during the whole set,  

     good article,    Greetings 

  • One reason I like the digital age: I have to trust my ears a little less, and can use my eyes to support them. This leads to much less need to listen to stuff loud. Reduced/Removed the ear-pain for me after longer gigs. Thanks, Traktor, for saving my ears 🙂

    • I’m glad you pointed this out. It’s a simple reality that many people fail to mention about sync. It removes some of the sonic danger from needing loud monitors

      • Indeed. The main thing about sync that I like is that, very often, I still have to make them fit by ear. But once I did, I know that I won’t have to adjust again, as once right, always right (while those two tracks play). Gives me more free time, and much more free time for my ears. I often mix without headsets, too. That’s quite fun (well, headphones got stolen, had to adjust). Once ears are trained, you hear much faster than the crowd if something’s wrong, so you can mix in something just a bit to check if it’s right or wrong. Together with the visual aids, that’s all that’s needed.

        Mixing like in “It’s gone, Pete Tong” without having lost hearing => awesome.

        • Tom_hate_horse

          You either don’t play often enough / dont cycle through enough new tunes / only play one tempo or only play one genre of 4×4 music off beatport, cause once right does not mean always right. Everyone should learn to mix wide open without a screen for waveforms/bpm, you don’t need to always do it but not being able to is…. yea.. you need to be able to. Mixing without headphones is for ableton sample sets.

          I don’t know about you but i don’t have time to perfectly grid everything.

          • No you don’t need to be able to. As you don’t need to be able to play guitar, or be a drummer, or what ever. You need to be able to do your part for a good sounding entertaining part of the evening.

            But yes, I’ve mixed with vinyl for quite some years, then moved directly digital (never liked cdjs, not ‘my thing’).

            and sure, depends on the music. but the rare track (in my case, rare) that has a wrong grid gets quickly gridded on stage, if not done before. and once a grid is proper, once correct, always correct. and the quality of the grid can actually checked with the eyes, too.

            in the end, the result matters. how you archive it doesn’t matter. each way requires skill and understanding on what your actual goal is.

          • Tom_hate_horse

            Having played vinyl i am amazed that you don’t feel people need the basics of manual beatmatching to fall back on.

            also i feel you about cdjs, to me they were just a stopgap between laptops and vinyl.

          • do i need to be able to ride a horse to learn how to drive a car? no. but, people did that before they had cars to drive with.

            you do need to learn what you need to do your job well. and nowadays, that can mean quite many things. yes, understanding beatmatching is important, but not from the standpoint of a vinyl dj. to beatmatch in ableton is not an in any way related task to beatmatch with vinyl, as an example.

            and no, people don’t need to learn it just because it was the way to dj 20 years ago. kids of today should explore with a fresh mind, the current tools and the current capabilities. that’s what drives everything forward, means evolution will happen.

            i personally will enjoy showing kids vinyl, and let them touch and feel and experience and mess with it. it’s a nice experience.

            but NEEDING it? no. every thing you learn is a good thing. but i don’t dismiss anyone not having learned it if what you create sounds great. i applaud for it to sound great, and for having found a different way to do so.

            there are people who can’t read, but instead trained themselves to save their asses in every situation where they should be able to read. that’s a talent, too. if they accomplish their goal, that’s their way to do so.