Rule #1: Don't piss off the sound guy!
Etymotic offers hearing protection solutions with flat response for musicians (click on "musician's earplugs") - though they must be custom-fitted by "licensed hearing professionals." They do have other products (for instance their ETY plugs that are only $13, and are pretty good), but if you want to hear exactly what's in the room, this is the best solution.
Another option is to wear more generic hearing protection muffs whenever we're not actually mixing, or to use noise-isolating headphones whenever possible while mixing, and only take them off for brief double-checks.
I think just being aware of healthy noise exposure limits is also helpful:
The old noise exposure limits (in Ontario, at least; all measured A-weighted, slow response) were:
85dB - 8hrs
88dB - 4 hrs
91dB - 2 hrs
94dB - 1 hr
97dB - 1/2 hr
100dB - 1/4 hr
which I think is close to the new rule - 85 dBA, Lex,8 which is better, but not as simple to calculate. It basically is a time-weighted average exposure limit of 85 dBA (known as the Leq, or equivalent noise limit, which is based on a 3 dB exchange rate). This link is to an excel spreadsheet can help you calculate the Leq ).
For live performance, impact noise (ie. cymbals) should not be over 100dB.
Performers should be at least 6ft away from impulse sounds (unless, of course, they are the drummer creating them)
Speakers should be aimed 1-2ft away from the ear
Monitors and bass speakers should have minimal contact with the floor in order to increase the perceived level of bass and allow for decreasing the overall volume.
Other than flying, how exactly do you achieve "minimal contact with the floor," especially with stage monitors? In my experience contact with the floor increases room vibrations and causes the perceived level of bass to increase. This is why I prefer to mix sitting down if the audience is also seated, because the vibrations in their chairs makes the bass seem louder.
The minimal contact with the floor is taken directly from ministry of Ontario advice for live music performers in the noise reduction section, so I'm assuming they have sound acoustic science behind them.
One of the things I've tried to do is minimize use of floor monitors.
If the floor monitors are loud enough that there is floor vibration from them, they are likely way too loud; if you're talking about a bass amp or something, possibly not (though most bass players seem to like their amps way too loud and compete with the house mix unless taught otherwise). Now-a-days in large venues people are flying bass speakers (because it makes it easier to get even-sounding bass since everyone is closer to equidistant from the speaker).
In practical terms,
1. For individual instrument amps, I raise them up closer to the performer (sometimes on a chair, if no other type of stand is available - just have to make sure it's secure). The closer it is to them, the lower the volume they need, which results in lower stage volume overall, which in turn means they don't need their instrument as loud.
2. I use in-ear personal monitoring systems when possible.
3. Then the floor monitors I do use, I ensure are aimed properly (ie. so that the centre is 1-2ft off of the ear-level), which sometimes means propping them up on one side with something, which in turn reduces the contact with the floor.
You could also experiment with small supports like hockey pucks to lift it off the floor.
4. For those playing acoustic instruments, who aren't comfortable with in-ear monitoring because they want to hear their instrument, I have had success with small monitor like the Mackie SRM-150 - just to fill in lead vocals/instrument - most of the rest they get from the bleed on the floor monitors.
Can you explain more what you mean by #3? Are you lifting the entire wedge off the ground?
After a million years in the biz I finally got a comprehensive hearing test and of course right ear is deficient. I had played bass way back in the late 70s and early 80s in several bands,Was always stage left of the drummer so hence my right ear took the brunt of everything !Then concert stage construction before I shifted to production touring and studio work.
Now when in the studio I have to pan everything a bit right ( of course not final mixdowns recording I make sure someone else assists ! ) or talking to someone at a gig where there is other noise going on act like the old man and lean in to favor the left ear. Yeah it's that bad. The Ear specialist wants to do Hearing aids They are extremely expensive ! There is another option of surgery -out patient- to help perhaps 30 % improve for now. But it is not the end all.
Of course this all could have been prevented back in the early days but we all know how that attitude was " i don't need no stinking ear plugs- I can't hear myself or the band accurately with those things ! " etc etc.
If we only knew how bad it could get when you don't protect.
Well, since I'm always broke, I use A.O. Safety brand "plastic banded" foam earplugs. (29db rating) They're great for me, as I have rather small ear canals and since they are on a plastic band, they are worn around the neck...Makes it hard to lose them and easy to pop them in!
Otherwise, when doing FOH, I try not to exceed 106-108 db (C weighted) at the mix position. (About 93 db "A" weighted, I think)
When studio tracking/mixing, I turn down my monitoring levels every 10-15 mins. or so and try to take "ear breaks" every 45 mins. to 1 hour.
Have your hearing checked by an Audiologist every 2 years...If you're broke like me, you can use an audio signal generator and a pair of known freq. response cans...This method won't tell you if you are deficient at first, but will tell you if you are trending towards deficiency if you test frequently after establishing a baseline. ( I did this after a pro Audiologist's test)
here is a great way to save your hearing...www.optogateonline.com
bring down stage and monitor bleed in a big way