Music lovers and musicians of every genre can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians find out that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are almost four times more likely to deal with noise-related hearing loss than non-musicians based on one German study. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
For musicians who are frequently exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings aren’t unexpected. One study revealed that levels higher than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, degrading the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this kind of damage to be irreversible.
Any type of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are riskier because they’re inherently loud. And there have been lots of notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at least, delayed, because of noise-induced hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the renowned British rock band, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing problems result from continuous and repeated exposure to loud music. Over the years, Townshend has addressed these problems in a few different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. The noise turned out to be too much at a 2012 show and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Significant hearing loss caused by loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer reported that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Van Halen spoke with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to deal with his worsening hearing loss. This allowed him to hear the music more clearly and at a lower volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man began manufacturing them commercially and eventually sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Townshend and Van Halen are just two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to experience noise-induced hearing problems.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who found another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss effectively. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to resurrect her career by using a set of hearing aids.
English musical theater powerhouse, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she experienced considerable hearing loss. For years, Paige has admitted to depending on hearing aids.
Paige said that she wears her hearing aids daily to fight her hearing loss and insists that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.