Interview: From Bahrain to North America, Salah Sadeq talks earplugs

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Salah Sadeq is an experienced creative director, DJ and producer from Bahrain. With over 24 years in the scene, he's travelled all over the world, from Bahrain to Berlin, Amsterdam to Tbisili. This may all be credited to his strong residency at Bahrain's Likwid which begain in 1999.

As an experienced DJ, who's regularly returned to play big festivals such as Amsterdam Dance Event, he has understood the necessity to protect his hearing. Here, we talk to Salah about his time DJing and the reasons to preserve such a vital sense.


When did you realise you had to start protecting your ears and what triggered this?

The first time I realised I need to be careful was during my residency in Likwid, Bahrain. Don’t get me wrong, the sound in the club was great and never gave us issues. It was actually some of the guest DJs using the monitors at a very high level (Guess the obvious reason). There was a night when heading out of the club I felt my hearing was not clear and I could not hear my friends talking to me that well. It was a muffled feeling, almost. We were headed to an after hours where I had to play and there as well I felt I could not hear my headphones clearly and kept having to put the volume on higher levels than normal.

It was a couple of weeks later that I was talking to Luke Solomon about it as he was telling us his story about getting a check up for some issues he was having and the insightful information the doctor gave him.

How often do you wear earplugs?

I carry them with me to every gig or whenever I go to a big club or event, but only use them if I feel the sound is too loud or harsh.

Oh and yeah if I know I have some important studio days coming up I do use them as well to save them from any stress. That may sound super sensitive but it makes a big difference.

Do you feel like having protected your ears from an early age on has made a tangible difference to your hearing capacity and health or were both still strongly affected by your regular exposure to loud music due to your job?

That conversation with Luke keeps coming up whenever I talk sound or protection with anyone. Simple notes like training your ears to listen to lower volumes on headphones etc helped a lot, but I also wonder so many times if it could have been better if I had protected them earlier. All the tips I got back then helped a lot with keeping my environment ear safe around me.

I have also noticed this stressful pressure like tension in my head when getting home or the next morning does not happen like it used to after any big event.

How have you found wearing earplugs when DJing/producing?

Yeah that is one thing I did not feel I needed or got used to. I tried to use the plugs at a festival once but felt I was not getting everything I needed to hear, but that was okay as the booth was not that bad and I managed to get it balanced and reduced by getting the monitors more spaced from where I was standing. In the studio as well, thanks to good advice, I try to work with normal volumes as much as possible and take regular breaks even during a busy session.

What’s the reception like from other artists when you wear them?

The most common thing I get is "oh do you have issues with your ears" from club goers more than artists. Artists always note that they need to carry theirs more often or we have conversation about which brand we use and why and the usual exchange of tips and knowledge from what we have heard or read. I've never had someone get bothered by me wearing them.

Having grown up in Bahrain, moved to North America and performed all over the world, do you see a difference in the amount of artists and fans wearing earplugs between each place?

You know there was a phase (trend, like) where I saw a lot of club goers in the Middle East and Europe starting to buy various versions of them, but in North America not so much unfortunately.

There's a lot of harsh systems I have come across here. I have seen more affordable plugs more for protection rather than cutting out certain sensitive frequencies that would be perfect for them, but not used as much. The other thing I have seen missing here is dispensers with those squishy plugs, which you come across in most clubs and some festivals in Europe. I think it's a good idea to push them at big or loud venues.

If there’s one piece of advice you could give to artists and/or fans with regard to protecting their ears, what would it be?

It is something that musicians and sound engineers always say - “good sound is not loud sound”. you have to balance it and get the EQ and layout and distribution right.

For listeners: don't take it for granted, damaging or losing your hearing can cause a lot of issues beyond just enjoying music. Take care of them and music is more enjoyable when you can hear all of it at a more inviting level rather than one that is imposing.

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