Audio engineering is a profession reliant on an individual's hearing. Exposure to loud music for long periods of time can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), or a loss of a narrow range of frequencies; frequencies that are essential to audio engineering and nailing the perfect mix. This month, Fader Plugs has the opportunity to highlight Pennsylvania native, John Rupp. Being involved in the music industry that is fast-paced and noisy, John has certainly demonstrated his ability to stand out in the crowd.
Born and raised in the mountains of PA, John has been working as a professional audio engineer since 2003, both in studios and on the stage. John has toured in 23 countries with artists such as Boyce Avenue, Secondhand Serenade, Motion City Soundtrack, Misterwives, Copeland, The Spill Canvas, Ryan Cabrera, Time Flies, Tyler Hilton, Sandlot Heroes, and Chase Coy as a production manager, tour manager, and sound engineer. In addition to his on the road experience, John was the head audio engineer at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem, PA from 2012-2014. In addition, he worked as a sound engineer at The Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown from 2009-2012.
Before hitting the road, John was primarily a studio engineer. He worked in the legendary Quad Recording Studios located in the heart of Time Square in New York City, as well as the legendary penthouse studio Tainted Blue, also located in Time Square. While working in the Big Apple, John got to work with many artists such as Ruben Studdard, The Bravery, Keri Hilson, Don Omar, Hurricane Chris, Nina Sky, Lion of Ido, and Method Man and Red Man, to name a few. John has also done many freelance recording sessions for various local talent at Soundmine Recording Studio located in Marshalls Creek, PA. When John is not on a tour bus or in a recording studio, you will most likely find him waist deep in the river fly fishing or spending time on the mountain. As of 2013, John has joined forces with Sixwill Studios as the Head Engineer and Co-Owner.
We had the opportunity to ask John a few questions regarding hearing conservation. Here's what he had to say!
1.) When you're in a loud environment, what are some of the things you notice about your hearing sensitivity? (For example, ringing in your ears, sound sounding dull, etc.)
In concert environments your ears will adjust and change frequently, especially since the exposure to high decibel levels can be for many hours at a time. After even 1 hour in a loud environment I notice my hearing in the high mid frequency range is the first to start to "weaken." Depending on room size and volume of the show things can start to sound slightly "underwater" or less clear very quickly. Ringing in the ears will be present almost immediately when at a live show, we just don't notice the annoying constant frequency until we get into a quieter environment.
2.) What precautions have you taken over the years to protect your hearing?
Over the years my biggest precaution is to MIX QUIETER!! I prefer clarity and comfort over volume. I owe that option a lot to the types of artists I tour with. Some styles of music require it to just be LOUD all the time where my clients prefer a clear healthy listening environment. I average around 99 dB(A) with my live mixes over the past 4 years. I've worked many shows where other artists average up to 115dB and sometimes will even hit over that which is extremely harmful to the human ear. When I am at an event and i am not the one who is currently running the console, I usually use my custom in ear monitor molds as ear plugs to keep my ears fresh until its my turn on the desk.
3.) Some of the issues with conventional types of earplugs has been with comfort and durability. If you had a quality pair of earplugs, is this something you would be more willing to use?
I would absolutely recommend a quality pair of ear plugs to anyone who works in any loud environment. Even if you are someone who frequently attends live music events you should absolutely have a good pair. Those typical foam ear plugs are uncomfortable and can distort the outside audio a ton. These new quality plugs, like Fader Plugs, will reduce volume and will not warp frequency nearly as much as the cheap ones.
4.) As an audio engineer, someone who relies on their hearing, are you or have you ever been concerned with hearing loss?
I am concerned with my hearing daily! We do things in our daily life that injure or change our hearing and may not even realize it. For example, my left ear has a slight difference in the way I hear low mid frequencies, and its due to driving with my window down. When i am using a hammer a lot for any projects I will notice a difference in my right ear for some time afterward due to me being right handed. I take hearing tests monthly, and I always keep track of my results.
CEO and Founder, Blaise Delfino, is currently a graduate student at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania studying speech-language pathology. Each month, Blaise will be interviewing and sharing the stories of musicians, producers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. He will be sharing their story, as well as their experience with hearing protection devices!