Hearing Health Blog

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

Your ears are your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. But overall, that’s not the situation. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.

But various new legal rulings and a focused undertaking to challenge that culture finally seem to be transforming that attitude. Damage to the ears, damage that inescapably causes hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are established ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.

When You’re in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Hearing

Professional musicians, of course, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud environment. Nor are they the only group of workers who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the damage as a consequence of loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other occupations such as manufacturing and construction.

Probably this has a couple of reasons:

  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it might interfere with one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to false information.
  • A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
  • No matter how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be glad to be in your place. So many musicians simply deal with poor hearing protection.

This “part of the job” culture influences more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music industry like crew members and security go along with this unsafe mentality.

Changing Norms

Fortunately, that’s changing for two big reasons. The first is a landmark legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a concert, was exposed to 130dB of sound when she was placed right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!

In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that amount of noise, you would be provided with hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and general loss of hearing 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, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special circumstance and instead commit to proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.

Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician

The number of individuals in the music business who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost awareness worldwide.

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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an increasing chance of having irreparable injury the more acoustic shock a person endures.

Deploying contemporary hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without decreasing the musical capabilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.

Transforming The Culture in The Music Industry

The ideal hearing protection equipment is ready and available. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This endeavor, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (The industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).

In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss should never be “just part of the job”.

Are you a musician? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to safeguard your ears.

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