Hearing Health Blog

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

Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be rather protective of their hearing. Strangely, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The prevailing mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

But certain new legal legislations and a concerted undertaking to challenge that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. Damage to the ears, injury that inescapably results in loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven ways and means to safeguard your hearing without eroding your performance.

When You Are in a Noisy Surrounding, Protect Your Hearing

Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have developed a fatalistic approach to the harm caused by loud noise. But other professions, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to undertake practical levels of hearing protection.

There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:

  • In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be excited to be in your position. So many musicians may not want to rock the boat or complain about inadequate hearing protection.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have a lot of hazards. 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 playing the same material nightly, they have to be able to hear quite well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s ability to hear. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to false information.

This “part of the job” culture affects more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music industry like crew members and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.

Norms Are Changing

Fortunately, that’s changing for two significant reasons. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was seated directly in front of the brass section. 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 much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced severe hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with 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 would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.

A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss

In the music business the number of individuals who suffer from tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost awareness around the world.

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 irreparable.

You can be protected without decreasing musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your ears will be safeguarded without limiting the quality of sound.

Changing The Music Culture

You can take advantage of the ideal 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 huge task, but it’s one that’s already displaying some success. (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).

Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.

Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.

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