Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their ears. But generally speaking, that’s not the case. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. The existing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by some new legal legislations and concerted public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, damage that inescapably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy environment. Nor are they the only class of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other professions like manufacturing and construction.
There are most likely a few reasons for this:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, as the saying goes). 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 performing the same material night after night, they have to be capable of hearing quite well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s hearing ability. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.
- Regardless of how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be grateful to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” mindset impacts more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music industry, from roadies to producers, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is essentially an extremely damaging mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a landmark case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a concert, was exposed to 130dB of noise when she was seated directly in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered serious hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the music industry should invest in hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special case.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Unavoidable For Musicians
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 hearing loss. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that injury will become irreversible.
Deploying contemporary hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without diminishing the musical abilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Music Culture
You can get the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already displaying some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.