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Tuesday, September 5, 2000- Letters to Datebook SF Examiner Chronicle

Now Hear This

Editor: Regarding Joel Selvin's review ("Playing for Keeps" Aug. 23)of the Who:

The question seems obvious but no one seems to be asking it or talking about it: What is Pete Townshend doing to protect his hearing these days? After his well-publicized tribulations concermng his own hearing damage a few years back, has Townshend had a miracle recovery? Is there no longer tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears), hyperacusis (oversensitivity to sound) or hearing loss? And even if he has had such a miracle, is he still not exposing himself to redamaging his hearing by continuing to stand directly in front of his own amps without a shield, or next to a drummer of "explosive power duplicating the maniacal onslaught of Keith Moon"? Perhaps he uses the same ear monitor system as Roger Daltrey, which might function to dampen the stage volume. (From photos of the show Townshend appears to be using neither an in-ear monitor nor an earplug in his right ear.) One must assume that the Who's "brutalism" must have a fair amount of stage volume. Even if Townshend were playing an electric guitar unplugged (softer than acoustic), the volume of the acoustic drums alone would be plenty sufficient to cause damage. The other possibility is that Townshend has just decided to go for broke and grind down what is left of his hearing. Unfortunatey, as hearing acuity goes down, often ringing and over sensitivitiy go up. And as anyone knows who has suffered these conditions, they can be life altering to the point of depression and despair.

Both Townshend and the publications that review his performances have a responsibility to mention his hearing damage, as he has a potentially huge influence on up-and-coming young musicians who might learn from his experiences.

Caveat to concert patrons: With ear-monitor systems and Plexiglass shields to cushion the drums, many bands are lowering their stage volume significantly. However, the audience often still bears the brunt of the attack of the P.A. system. Concert attendees need to be aware of the risk they take going to a show without hearing protection. Any ringing in the ears after a concert indicates that some damage is being done. Typically, this ringing is gone in a few hours (or days). But after repeated incidents the ringing can become permanent. People have different sensitivities. Some can get permanent damage from just one concert.

Tip of the day: first-aid stations at concert venues almost always have foam earplugs to give away. Tip No.2: Custom -molded " musician's earplugs" are a great solution for both musicians and concert patrons. They cut down volume without drastically affecting the quality of the sound (as a foam or wax earplug might). For information about custom molded earplugs, hearing tests and support services, contact Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers at www.hearnet.com.

Eric Lenchner Former guitarist with the Ultras and
Profesor Sludge Guitar Academy
HEAR Partner San Francisco


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