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 protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But generally speaking, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. The prevailing mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by various new legal rulings and focused public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably results in loss of hearing, should never be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to protect your hearing without hampering your performance.

When You Are in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Ears

Of course, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only class of workers who have developed a fatalistic approach to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other occupations such as manufacturing and construction.

There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:

  • A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). 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 always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be pleased to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.
  • Even if a musician is playing the same material every night, they have to be capable of hearing quite well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to false information.

Sadly, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music business like roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mindset.

Changing Norms

There are two major reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a landmark case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of noise when she was seated directly in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!

Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But the viola player experienced long periods of tinnitus and general hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.

When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional circumstance and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.

Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate

In the music industry the number of those who have 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss. There is an increasing chance of having irreparable injury the more acoustic shock a person withstands.

You can be protected without diminishing musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specifically manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be safeguarded without inhibiting the quality of sound.

Transforming The Attitude in The Music Industry

The correct hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).

In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. 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.

Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.

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