Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their ears. Curiously, that isn’t the case. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. The existing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by some new legal rulings and focused public safety efforts. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are proven methods to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. And some 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 rapidly implemented by other professions like manufacturing and construction.
There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- However harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be glad to be in your place. So many musicians just quietly deal with poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same material nightly, they need to be capable of hearing quite well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music business, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is fundamentally a truly damaging mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two big reasons that this is changing, thankfully. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was seated directly in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered extreme 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 ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a very clear message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special circumstance and instead commit to proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
In the music business the number of individuals who have tinnitus is staggeringly 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that injury will become permanent.
You can be protected without diminishing musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically manufactured for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Attitude in The Music Business
You can get the correct hearing protection right now. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (The industry is getting a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Ask us how to protect your hearing without missing a beat.