If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your living. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. Oddly, that isn’t the case. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The predominant mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But certain new legal rulings and a concerted effort to confront that culture finally seem to be transforming that attitude. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s especially true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your ears without hindering your performance.
Protecting Your Ears in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud environment. And some other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to undertake basic levels of ear protection.
more than likely this has a couple of reasons:
- Even if a musician is performing the same music every night, they have to be able to hear very well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as if it may interfere with one’s ability to hear. This resistance is typically rooted in misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- However harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re fortunate and that somebody would be happy to be in your place. So many musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is fundamentally an extremely harmful mindset.
Fortunately, that’s transforming for two big reasons. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was seated right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be exposed to that much sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced severe hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a definite message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should not think of itself a special circumstance.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
The number of individuals in the music business who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to boost 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an increasing chance of having permanent damage the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
You can be protected without reducing musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Music Culture
The correct hearing protection hardware is ready and available. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently showing some success. (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.