AUSTIN (KXAN) — Musicians know they only get one pair of ears, and once their hearing is gone they can’t get it back.
“Matt Sorum, drummer of Guns N’ Roses, said his doctor told him he’s got the ears of a 65-year-old man,” said Stevie Salas, a guitarist who’s shared stages with artists like Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake and Mick Jagger. “I lost a significant part of my hearing those first few years on these giant tours I was doing. Now I’m a father and I’ve lost a lot of my hearing and it’s very concerning to me.”
Artists typically use in-ear monitors and headphones, but those can cause unwanted noise and distortion, forcing the ear to shut down and compress for protection. Makers of the REV33 set out to find a solution.
“We knew musicians and children listening to music are damaging their ears on a daily basis,” said Brett Butler, CEO of REVx Technologies. “We found a way to eliminate those [noise sources] and the result has been less ear fatigue, more clarity, and we believe an overall better experience for musicians.”
The effects of ear fatigue include ear-ringing, buzzing, hearing loss and headaches. The REV33 works with a musician’s in-ear monitor or headphones, filtering out the unwanted noise. Dozens of musicians from all genres, like Steven Tyler, Kenny Chesney and the Black Eyed Peas, are using the device — saying it’s making a big difference.
“Cindy Blackman from Lenny Kravitz says it’s the first time she was ever able to have a conversation after a concert, because normally her ears are so shut down and closed that she sort of has to read lips,” said Salas.
While skeptical at first, Salas is now spreading the word about the device to every artist he knows.
“It is improving, all of my friends who are using it, their quality of life. More than just professionally, because it’s saving their ears for everything else,” said Salas. “I can hear things and I want to be able to hear, I want to hear music, I want to be able to hear everything in life.”
Dr. Craig Champlin of the University of Texas Communications Sciences and Disorders Department ran a double-blind study with the device in Austin. It revealed that musicians who didn’t use the REV33 with their in-ear monitors experienced a substantial drop in hearing sensitivity.
Soriya Estes, a Doctor of Audiology at Estes Audiology, works with hundreds of musicians each year, fitting them with filtered ear plugs and custom in-ear monitors to protect their hearing. She says while they help protect an artist’s ears, the devices can compromise sound quality.
“When a musician has finished doing a set and they’re two, maybe three hours on stage, that’s a lot of intense constant sound and the ear gets fatigued,” said Estes. “The REV33 brings in clear, cleaner signal so they feel they can lower the volume level, lower it to a safer level.”
Estes says she’s looking forward to recommending the device to patients who are trying to be proactive with preserving their hearing.
“It’s important to protect now because it’s irreversible damage. If you invest a few hundred dollars on hearing protection now, it’s probably going to save you thousands of dollars in hearing aids and different options later down the line,” said Estes.
Butler says ultimately the company is working to get the technology into the hands of anyone who listens to music with headphones. Devices are available that are compatible with smart phone headphones, and eventually they plan to release software that can be built right into the phone.