If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be rather protective of their ears. Strangely, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. They believe hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. Injury to the ears, damage that inescapably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to safeguard your ears without hampering your performance.
When You’re in a Noisy Surrounding, Safeguard Your Ears
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the damage caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to adopt basic levels of ear protection.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this:
- No matter how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that somebody would be exciting to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing 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.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material every night, they have to be capable of hearing quite well. If it seems like it might hinder the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, sadly. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who are working in the music business like crew members and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Fortunately, that’s changing for two big reasons. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was placed directly in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be exposed to that amount of sound, you would be given 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 found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled for the viola player, it was a very clear message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional situation and instead commit to proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
In the music business the number of people who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
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 probability that injury will become permanent.
You can be protected without diminishing musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Industry
The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this stage, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This undertaking, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.