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“My name is Eleanor Turner. I am 16 years old and I have been playing violin and piano since I was 4.5 years old.

I started playing in small group ensembles at my local music centre when I was 8.  At 9 I won a place at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where my first study is violin.  I started playing in orchestras at 10 years old with Musica Youth Kirklees, Huddersfield at the back of second violins; I am now the Orchestra Leader.

Orchestral playing is a huge part of what I do.  I have played in the National Children’s Orchestra under 12s, Junior RNCM Symphony and Sinfonia, Halle Youth Orchestra and I will begin the Opera North Youth Orchestra in October 2023.  Playing in orchestras has meant that I have had the wonderful opportunities to play in some fantastic venues: Birmingham Symphony Hall, Bridgewater Hall, RNCM and the Royal Albert Hall.

These orchestras vary in size from 80 to 160 players and, regardless of size, the noise levels can be deafening. When I first started playing in orchestras I was placed in second violins at the back.  One year I was sat directly in front of the piccolo.  At its most powerful, a piccolo can reach up to 112 decibels.  It was so loud that it would hurt my ears as the sound was piercing. Due to this I started thinking about ways to protect my hearing.

On a National Children’s Orchestra under 12s residency in 2018, we were given a Health and Safety talk about protecting our hearing and given a pair of foam ear plugs to wear.

At the Junior RNCM all students had  access to the Howard Leight Laser-Lite earplugs.  They are made of foam, lightweight and are a shocking pink and luminous yellow colour.   They did not fit me properly as they were too big. They would curtail some of the noise but not all, and as they didn’t fit properly they were occasionally prone to falling out.

Then in 2018 a professional viola player successfully won a landmark case against the Royal Opera House for ‘Acoustic Shock’.  During a 3 hour long rehearsal, Christopher Goldschieder was sat in front of an 18 strong brass section, where he was subjected to 137 decibels.   As a result he suffered ‘Acoustic Shock’ and loss of hearing.

Due to this landmark case, all the Junior RNCM students were given a Health and Safety course with regards to protecting our hearing.  We were all given a pair of ACS Pacato 19 High Fidelity Earplugs and told to wear them and discard the foam plugs. These fitted in my ears better than the foam earplugs; they were smaller and also contained a filter.  Essentially, they would filter out excessive noise levels and I could still hear the sounds that I needed to hear, albeit muffled.

In 2019, my friend at Juniors suggested that I try the Senner MusicPro Earplugs. She was a piccolo player and said that in her opinion the Senner earplugs were much more effective.  The earplugs did suit me better.  They protected more of my hearing than the previous ones as they sat further into my ear canal.  They also contained a better filter so it meant that they reduced the sound levels, but I could still hear what I needed to hear.  The material used to make the Senner earplugs were much more comfortable which meant that I could use them for long periods of time.

In July 2023, we decided to have some bespoke earplugs made.  Whilst having a routine ear wax suction at RJD Hearing, my mum and I enquired about bespoke earplugs and asked RJD if they knew anyone who made them.

They said that they did; Within 10 minutes I had a mould taken of my ear canals and the process of bespoke earplugs began. I even had a choice of colours!

Once they were made, I returned to RJD for a consultation with Rob.  During that consultation Rob taught me how to place the earplugs into my ears correctly.  He also explained how to maintain and look after my earplugs properly i.e. ‘Don’t throw them into your violin case Eleanor’.

The bespoke earplugs are marginally bigger than the Senners, but remain lightweight.  They were initially a little tricky to place into my ears; after a few practices I got the hang of it.  They also sit further into my ear canaI and sit perfectly in my outer ear.  As they are moulded to my ears, they now fit into and around my ears perfectly. And because they are transparent, they are not distracting for the conductor, other musicians or audience members.

I wear them during practice, ensemble work, orchestral rehearsals and concert performances.  I frequently play in higher positions, which means that at times I can play between 78- 95 decibels. They are extremely comfortable, which is really important when I have a long rehearsal of up to 3 hours.  I don’t even realise that I am wearing them. I can hear all the sounds that I need to hear and they block out all the high frequency noises.

Although it has taken me some time to find the perfect ear protection, I feel that through RJD Hearing I have found the right solution. More importantly, the bespoke earplugs give me peace of mind, I am protecting my hearing now and for future years to come.  “