There was a question here a little bit ago asking about ear protection during mixing. A broader question for us all that use our ears for a living is: What do you do to maintain ear health?

Do you go for regular checkups? Clean ears with something specific? Keep ear plugs with you at all times? Do you have an audiologist? Have you insured your ears?

I also have a question specific to myself that maybe some of you have come across. I wear headphones for many hours a day, as well as being on the phone with a headset. My right ear (phone ear) tends to get a "swimmers ear" problem - holds water when I wash my ears, a lot of wax buildup. I feel like the headphones/ear pieces I use don't breathe at all and cause moisture to build up in my ears. Have any of you experienced this from a lot of headphone or in-ear use? Is there anything I can do to prevent it in the future? Are there better headphones that allow air flow?

Thank you!

5 Answers 5


Here is my list I wrote down a few years ago and always try to follow. Ear is our most valuable investment in this occupation and it is neither upgradeable nor replaceable.

  • Always mix at a reasonable volume.

  • Take frequent breaks when you need to work/mix at loud volumes.

  • Carry ear-protection with you. Use them in loud places. (Clubs, stadiums. etc.)

  • Find a good audiologist and go for regular check ups. (Every 6 months) Do not confuse audiologist with Audiometrist or Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist.

  • Do not clean your ear yourself with chemicals or Q-tips. Ear cleans itself.

  • Verifiable, general, and easy-to-follow advice. Nice one, Selcuk. Jun 28, 2010 at 3:41

I mix at a reasonable volume, and wear ear plugs whenever I'm doing something louder than my normal bedroom jamming, which includes going to Guitar Center or working on my house.

I love Q-tips and hydrogen peroxide, and I pay close attention to the health of my ear-skin (having a couple hard-cartilage piercings makes that a must, anyway).

I don't do regular checkups, and I haven't seen an ear-specialist, but I probably should.

I noticed when I was wearing ear buds, my ear canals were ALWAYS tender, and had more buildup, and I felt like the SPLs were getting worse every day... In that case, having my iPod w/ ear buds stolen was probably a good thing. I haven't had problems like that with cans.

  • @Dave Thanks for the response! Related: I noticed you have stretched ears. I have not started piercing my ears, and part of the reason was not knowing how it would effect my hearing. Do you find that your piercings make anything about sound work more difficult?
    – VCProd
    Jun 24, 2010 at 19:36
  • @VCProd Thanks for not calling them "gauges"... that gets on my nerves more than non-audio peeps knowing all about the Wilhelm Scream. Because of the way ears work, with every fold being there to help reflect sound down the ear canal, every piercing has the potential to audibly change the way things sound, but it's HIGHLY unlikely. Even with my conches, I didn't notice anything, and they're large piercings right inside my ears. But I've heard of other people noticing a sonic difference based on the type of material their jewelry is made of, so maybe I'm just not THAT sensitive. Jun 24, 2010 at 20:32
  • @Dave Heh, yeah, my wife is very modded, so I've been set straight ... "gauge" is a size, not a verb! I don't know if I'd pierce my tragus because it would interfere with wearing in-ears, but definitely interested in piercing/stretching my lobes. Thanks for the info!
    – VCProd
    Jun 24, 2010 at 21:43
  • @VCProd No problem. Jun 25, 2010 at 1:19

A very smart mixer once told me that you should take grandma's advice and "not put anything larger than your elbow into your ear", ie. nothing. I think it makes sense to respect your ears, and not meddle with them too much unless there's an obvious problem. Try to limit your exposure to excessive SPLs and NEVER EVER use earbud headphones.

  • 1
    "larger" than your elbow?
    – endolith
    Jul 2, 2010 at 16:12
  • that's the point, it's a funny grandma way of saying don't put anything into your ear. Jul 2, 2010 at 21:20

I always have two pairs of foam earplugs in my wallet. I've been told they are not ideal but at least you can fit them in something as flat as a wallet and go out without your little box of more sophisticated SPL attenuation system. I usually pull them out every time I go to a place there is loud/live music.

I clean my ears with water under the shower by getting water in and pressing on the tragus repeatedly to agitate the liquid in the inside. I do that a couple of times and then I just use an earbud to dry the inside otherwise it keeps tickling, that involves hardly any pressure on the walls of the ear canal.

Once I'm back to France I'll go to the "ear-ologist" to check my hearing and discuss the cleaning thing.


I take frequent breaks when working (every 1/2 hour to 1 hour if I can). Not only do the breaks help with the ears, but they also help my back and wrists. I try to listen at lower volume levels as much as I can. I always wear ear plugs if I go to a loud event; concert, shooting range, etc.

The fact of it is that we put our ears in danger because of our work. There is no way around it. What we do for a living is not the best thing for ear health. Using common sense will help your ears last. Listen at lower volumes, take lots of breaks, and learn to recognize when it is time to stop and give your ears a longer rest.

Cleaning your ears is a bit of a controversial topic among doctors, or at least their may have been new research to contradict old ways of thinking. I've had doctors tell me to clean my ears out daily with Q-tips and I've had other doctors to tell me to NEVER use Q-tips in the ear and not even worry about cleaning them at all. Through research, I'm now of the opinion that frequent cleaning does more harm than good and you should never stick Q-tips in your ears. If you have issues with excessive wax build up, talk to a doctor about other cleaning methods.


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