International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has no doubt resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. Marley said the following in regards to the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians find out that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are up to four times more likely to deal with noise-induced hearing loss than non-musicians as reported by one German study. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not surprising. One study revealed that levels above 110dB can begin to affect nerve cells, degrading the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is generally irreversible.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all kinds of music, but individuals who play the loudest tunes usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of many rock musicians.
One musician who deals with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. Frequent and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has utilized several different approaches to deal with the problem.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to play acoustically. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Substantial hearing loss due to loud music exposure has also been a problem for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 60 percent in his left.
Van Halen spoke with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to manage his worsening hearing loss. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man started producing them commercially and later sold that company to a national sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who found another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss successfully. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career with a pair of hearing aids.
English musical theater powerhouse, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she experienced considerable hearing loss. Paige revealed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids daily, she discloses that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.