If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their ears. Strangely, that isn’t the situation. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. The existing mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by various new legal rulings and concerted public safety efforts. 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 hearing without eroding your performance.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Protect Your Hearing
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud environment. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (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.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material night after night, they need to be able to hear quite well. If it seems as if it will impede hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with poor hearing protection.
Regrettably, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on more than just musicians. Others who work in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is fundamentally a very damaging mindset.
There are two reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. A landmark 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 immediately in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered severe 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 ruled in favor of the viola player, they delivered a message that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection regulations, 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 Hearing Loss
In the music business the number of those who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness around the world.
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 loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that damage will become permanent.
You can be protected without reducing musical abilities by using earplugs that are specifically created for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your ears will be protected without compromising the quality of sound.
Transforming The Music Culture
You can take advantage of the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is very common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.