Music lovers and musicians of all genres can undoubtedly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following in regards to the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
While physical pain might not come with the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to have a negative impact on the musicians performing it. Many musicians find out that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, one German study found that working musicians are almost four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another field. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
For musicians who are frequently exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings aren’t surprising. One study found that levels above 110dB can start to affect nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals to the brain from the ears. This damage is generally irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can impact musicians who play all types of music, but musicians who play the loudest tunes usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been many popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at least, delayed, as a result of noise-related hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock group, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. Constant and repeated exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have developed over the years, Townshend has utilized numerous different approaches to manage the problem.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and opted to play acoustically. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist decided to leave the stage.
Substantial hearing loss caused by loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
Van Halen spoke with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he looked for ways to address his worsening hearing loss. That earpiece would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also countless other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few noteworthy mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss successfully. And while she might not have Clapton’s worldwide fame or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a set of hearing aids that have helped to resurrect her career.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige experienced considerable hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige shared that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids daily, she discloses that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.