Hearing Loss Isn’t a Given For Musicians

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

If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your living. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. But in general, that’s not the way it is. Many musicians just accept loss of hearing. They think loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.

But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. It should never be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s especially true when there are proven methods and means to protect your hearing without hampering your performance.

When You Are in a Noisy Environment, Safeguard Your Hearing

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 issues caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to embrace practical levels of hearing protection.

There are probably a number of reasons for this:

  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re performing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it might impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
  • No matter how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s usually a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be glad to be in your position. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or whine about inadequate hearing protection.

Unfortunately, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who are working in the music business like roadies and producers go along with this unsafe mentality.

Norms Are Changing

There are two major reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a particular performance, a viola player was seated right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!

In the majority of cases, if you were going to be subjected to that much sound, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player experienced long periods of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.

When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, it was a definite signal that the music industry would have to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry needs to invest in hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Inevitable For Musicians

The number of people in the music industry who suffer from 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that injury will become irreversible.

Using modern hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical capabilities of anybody. Your hearing will be safeguarded without limiting sound quality.

Transforming The Music Attitude

The ideal hearing protection equipment is ready and available. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This undertaking, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).

Tinnitus is exceptionally common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.

Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to safeguard your ears.