Your hearing is your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for all musicians. But overall, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But certain new legal legislations and a focused undertaking to confront that culture finally seem to be changing that mindset. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud environment. And many other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.
There are probably a number of reasons for this:
- Even if a musician is performing the same material night after night, they have to be able to hear very well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to misinformation.
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be willing to take your place. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (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.
This “part of the job” culture influences more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music industry such as roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two major reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A landmark legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a certain performance, a viola player was placed immediately in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of noise. 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 volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced extreme hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and ruled for the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be immune from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the music industry needs to invest in hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should not think of itself a special case.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music business the number of people 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. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that damage will become irreversible.
You can be protected without limiting musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Culture in The Music Business
The correct hearing protection hardware is available and ready. Changing the culture 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 already displaying some results. (The industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. 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 to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.