International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. In describing the power of music, the Jamaican-born Marley said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a common issue for musicians who are continually exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study found that working musicians are almost four times more likely to grapple with noise-induced hearing loss than someone working in another profession. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more pronounced in those musicians.
These results are no surprise for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB). One study revealed that volumes above 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this kind of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can affect musicians who play all types of music, but individuals who play the loudest music generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been countless notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at a minimum, delayed, due to noise-induced hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the legendary British rock band, The Who, is one musician who deals with partial deafness and tinnitus. Frequent and repeated exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. Over the years, Townshend has handled these problems in several different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who decided to leave the stage to get away from the noise.
Significant hearing loss caused by loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. According to Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
Van Halen consulted with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to deal with his worsening hearing loss. That earpiece would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which allowed him to hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man ultimately was so successful with this prototype that he began to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-related hearing loss.
But successfully combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career with a pair of hearing aids.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been stunning audiences for more than 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered substantial hearing loss. Paige disclosed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she wears her hearing aids every day to combat her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.