Big thanks to Nathan Lively of Sound Design Live for the opportunity to share my career, gear and knob turning advice. I address a few of my monitor mixing tips, learning to say no in order to do more of the work you WANT to do, wireless coordination and IEM tips as well as a little history on my career path. Plus some cowbell smacking music interludes on the podcast! Enjoy! Interested in my additional live sound tips and tricks?
Ensuring In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) are clean, holes unclogged and all drivers are working can save you precious troubleshooting time and gain some confidence in your mix –although not the most glamorous daily task. This quick post will show you how to clean IEM quickly with just a few tools and a bit of time.
My tools and steps to clean in ear monitors:
“Cleaning Solution” This concoction was recommended to me by my audiologist for flushing out ears — equal parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar. I dip a lint free rag into this and wipe down each IEM before attempting to clean out any impacted holes.
Tip: Be sure to warm up the solution for 10 seconds in the microwave before flushing out your own ears
IEM Cleaning Tool This tool, often included with your IEM’s, has a small loop and a brush. I dip the looping the cleaning solution and clean out the holes. The brush is good for hard to reach places. I’ll then use the Jodi-Vac to suck out the remaining wax.
Listening Tube Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? The fine folks at Sensaphonics in Chicago made this wonderful tool for me. Simply a mold just like your IEM’s yet with a long tube that terminates into a metal tube. I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with her ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to accommodate not knowing the failure.
TIP: Be very careful with the metal probe — only do this once the ears are CLEAN. You don’t want to push a blockage deeper into the IEM canal.
Jodi-Vac Cleaning Pump
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio recommended Jodi-Vac cleaning pump . I use the “Consumer” model which seems to work just fine yet the pro model is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip and tube clean. I tend to dip the needle in the cleaning solution and then, while the pump is on, plunge the needle into the cleaning tube. Seems to do the trick.
Flashlight This process is best done in the daylight but the take away is you want to have plenty of light to see any other issues BELOW the hole opening. IEM’s come in many different colors— some easier than others to see the “tubes” within the IEM.
I hope sharing my workflow is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have some other tips for cleaning IEM’s.
Other resources for how to clean your in-ear monitors (IEM’s):