If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. Oddly, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that mindset. Injury to the ears, damage that inevitably causes hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are established ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Noisy Setting
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud surrounding. Nor are they the only class of workers who have developed a fatalistic approach to the damage as a consequence of loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other professions such as construction and manufacturing.
There are probably a number of reasons for this:
- Even if a musician is performing the same music nightly, they need to be able to hear very well. If it seems as if it will impede hearing, there can be some opposition to using hearing protection. This resistance is usually based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- Regardless of how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s usually a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be grateful to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with 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.
This “part of the job” mindset impacts more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implied expectation that others who work in the music industry like roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s changing for two big reasons. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a certain performance, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you had to be exposed to that much sound, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and general hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music business the number of those 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 wedding DJs to classical music performers to rock stars and their roadies 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 damage will become irreversible.
Deploying current hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without limiting the musical capabilities of anybody. Your hearing will be protected without inhibiting the quality of sound.
Transforming The Music Attitude
You can get the correct hearing protection right now. At this time, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment industry. This endeavor, 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 extremely common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.