Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be fairly protective of their ears. But in general, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept loss of hearing. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by various new legal rulings and concerted public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, damage that unavoidably causes hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
When You’re in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Hearing
Obviously, musicians are not the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the damage as a consequence of loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly implemented by other occupations like manufacturing and construction.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Even if a musician is playing the same music nightly, they need to be capable of hearing quite well. If it seems as if it might hamper hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.
- No matter how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be excited to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.
Regrettably, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an effect on more than just musicians. Others who are working in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly expected to buy into what is essentially an extremely harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Thankfully, that’s changing for two major reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a particular performance, a viola player was placed directly in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced severe hearing impairment due to that lack of protection, damage that involved long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and ruled in favor of the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Unavoidable For Musicians
In the music business the number of individuals who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an escalating chance of having permanent injury the more acoustic shock a person endures.
You can be protected without inhibiting musical abilities by using earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be protected without decreasing the quality of sound.
Transforming The Music Culture
The right hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the mindset in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently showing some results. (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is very common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.