Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their ears. But generally speaking, that’s not the case. Most musicians just accept loss of hearing. They believe hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by certain new legal rulings and focused public safety campaigns. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are proven methods to safeguard the ears, that’s especially true.
When You Are in a Noisy Environment, Protect Your Hearing
Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. And some other workers undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like manufacturing and construction, have been quicker to adopt practical levels of hearing protection.
more than likely this has a couple of reasons:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Even if a musician is performing the same music night after night, they need to be able to hear quite well. If it seems like it might hinder hearing, there can be some opposition to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is commonly based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- Regardless of how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that somebody would be grateful to be in your position. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implied expectation that other people who are working in the music industry such as roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s transforming for two significant reasons. A landmark legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was placed immediately in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced severe hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, it was a clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special case.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music industry the number of individuals who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
Everyone from rock star and their roadies to wedding Dj’s to classical musicians are in danger of experiencing “acoustic shock,” a response to very loud noises which includes the onset of tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. There is an escalating chance of suffering permanent injury the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
Deploying modern hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. Your ears will be protected without inhibiting sound quality.
Changing The Culture in The Music Industry
The right hearing protection hardware is ready and available. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing success (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t need to be. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.