If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. Strangely, that’s not the case. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. The prevailing mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But some new legal rulings and a focused undertaking to confront that culture finally seem to be transforming that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to protect your hearing without hindering your performance.
When You’re in a Noisy Surrounding, Safeguard Your Ears
Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. And many other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other professions such as construction and manufacturing.
There are most likely a number of reasons for this:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material night after night, they have to be able to hear quite well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might interfere with one’s hearing ability. This resistance is usually rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be happy to take your place. So many musicians might not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture influences more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implicit expectation that others who are working in the music business such as crew members and bartenders go along with this unsafe mentality.
There are two big reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. During a particular concert, a viola player was placed immediately in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you were going to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced extreme hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the music industry needs to invest in hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of individuals who suffer from 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss. There is an increasing chance of having irreparable damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
Using modern hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical capabilities of anyone. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Music Culture
The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this stage, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s one that’s already showing some success. (The industry is getting an eye opener with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.