International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has no doubt resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. In talking about the power of music, the Jamaican-born Marley said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
While physical pain might not accompany the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to take a toll on those playing it. Hearing loss is a typical issue for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
As a matter of fact, one German study revealed that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than someone working in another profession. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
These results are no surprise for musicians who frequently produce or receive exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). One study found that levels louder than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is normally permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all types of music, but musicians who play the loudest music usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been many notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at least, delayed, due to noise-induced hearing loss.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. Over the years, Townshend has addressed these problems in several different ways as his symptoms have progressed.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and opted to perform acoustically. At a concert in 2012, the volume turned out to be too loud for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to get away from the noise.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also dealt with substantial hearing loss as a result of increased noise volumes. According to Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
Looking for a way to reduce the continued degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with countless other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-related hearing loss.
But effectively combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to revive her career with a pair of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been thrilling audiences for over 50 years. Paige experienced extensive hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige shared that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids every day to fight her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.