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What Effect Does Alcohol have on Your Ears

Many sound jobs take place in venues that serve alcoholic beverages. There is a temptation for the audio technicians to sip one or two. This is not a good plan, even in small amounts. Alcohol has an effect on the nervous system of the body. It takes very little alcohol do deaden the auditory nerve. If you take a drink what you think that you hear will have very limited relationship to reality.

Examples from My Experience

Case #1

There were two incidents in my career that graphically demonstrated this situation. The first came relatively early in my career. I did house production at a local live music venue. There were circuit bands playing most nights, but there were several shows a month as well. The shows were touring national acts.

I do not recall the name of the act, but it was one of those shows came into the club. The usual procedure for a show date is to do a sound check in the afternoon. The sound check sounded very good. 

Just before the show the front of house tech had me get him a double Crown from the bar. He had several more double shots during the show. The sound started out good as it had been in sound check, but the quality when downhill rapidly.

Case #2

The second incident was with a band that was a regular on the rally circuit. At one of the events the band was accompanied by a front of house engineer. These two shows were an audition for this soundman. He did a good job. He was hired to tour with the band. 

For the next two years I did not hear a really good sounding show until the last show of the second season. The tech came to the mix booth and told me he had just gotten up. He had partied with the band through the night and gone to bed at around 11 AM. He had slept through the day and gotten up shortly before it was time to leave for the show. 

He had dried out while asleep and came to the show with a clear head. He mixed a good sounding show, although I could hear it beginning to deteriorate toward the end. He had brought three Smirnoff Ices to the booth and was working on the third at the end of the show.

What Should This Mean to You?

If you are serious about mixing the best live show that you can mix I recommend that you save the drinking until after the show. I guarantee that your ears will be impaired long before you even feel the effects of the alcohol.

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Have you seen this happen?

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