Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But in general, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by various new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, damage that unavoidably results in hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are proven ways and means to safeguard your ears without hindering your performance.
Protecting Your Ears in a Loud Setting
Obviously, musicians are not the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. And many other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other professions like construction and manufacturing.
There are most likely a few reasons for this:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so 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 music every night, they need to be able to hear very well. If it seems like it might hinder hearing, there can be some opposition to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is commonly based on false information, it should be mentioned.
- In countless artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians might not want to make waves or complain about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture influences more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implicit expectation that others who work in the music business like roadies and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.
There are two big reasons that this is changing, fortunately. The first is a landmark legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. 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 roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player suffered serious hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special case and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music industry the number of people who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to raise awareness worldwide.
Everyone from wedding DJs to classical music performers to rock stars and their roadies are in danger of experiencing “acoustic shock,” a response to very loud noises which includes the onset of tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss. There is an escalating chance of having irreparable damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
Using current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without decreasing the musical abilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can get the right hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing success (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, loss of hearing should never be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.