If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So it seems as if musicians would be quite protective of their ears. Strangely, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by some new legal legislations and focused public safety efforts. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are established methods to protect the ears, that’s especially true.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Protect Your Ears
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. And many other workers undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- No matter how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be exciting to be in your place. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same music night after night, they have to be able to hear very well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may affect one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.
- A manufacturing and construction 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.
Unfortunately, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. Others who work in the music business, from roadies to producers, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is ultimately an extremely damaging mindset.
Fortunately, that’s transforming for two significant reasons. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a concert, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was placed immediately in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that amount of noise, you would be provided with hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and overall loss of hearing because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they sent a message that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional situation and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
The number of people in the music business who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that damage will become irreparable.
Deploying contemporary hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without diminishing the musical capabilities of anybody. Your hearing will be safeguarded without reducing the quality of sound.
Changing The Culture in The Music Industry
The right hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Loss of hearing 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.