Hearing Health Blog

Musician on stage performing with hearing protection to protect against tinnitus and hearing loss.

If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their ears. But overall, that’s not the case. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. They think hearing loss is just “part of the job”.

That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and concerted public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are established ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.

Protecting Your Ears in a Noisy Environment

Of course, musicians are not the only individuals who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. And some other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other professions such as construction and manufacturing.

There are probably a couple of reasons for this:

  • Even if a musician is performing the same music every night, they have to be capable of hearing very well. If it seems as if it might hinder hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be noted, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
  • In many artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to have an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be excited to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have a lot of hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.

Regrettably, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. Others who are working in the music business, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is essentially an extremely damaging mindset.

Changing Norms

There are two big reasons that this is changing, fortunately. The first is a landmark case against the Royal Opera House in London. During a certain concert, a viola player was sitting immediately in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!

Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be exposed to that much noise. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered extreme hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.

When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled for the viola player, it was a very clear signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special circumstance and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.

A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing

In the music industry the number of individuals who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness worldwide.

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 injury will become irreversible.

Utilizing current hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical capabilities of anyone. Your ears will be protected without decreasing the quality of sound.

Changing The Music Culture

The correct hearing protection hardware is ready and available. 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 difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (The industry is getting an eye opener with the decision against The Royal Opera House).

Tinnitus is incredibly 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.

Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.

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