Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be quite protective of their ears. Oddly, that’s not the situation. Many musicians just accept loss of hearing. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a concerted undertaking to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. It should never be considered just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s particularly true when there are established ways and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Noisy Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. And many other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues 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 construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re performing the same material regularly. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s hearing ability. This resistance is usually based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- 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 position. So many musicians might not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implied expectation that other people who are working in the music industry such as crew members and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two major reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a certain concert, a viola player was sitting immediately in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly comparable to a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be exposed to that much noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced extreme hearing damage because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled in favor of 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 a special situation and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Inevitable For Musicians
In the music business the number of those who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to boost 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that damage will become permanent.
You can be protected without inhibiting musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be protected without compromising sound quality.
Transforming The Music Attitude
The right hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently showing some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. Loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.