Your hearing is your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their ears. Curiously, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and focused public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, damage that inevitably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your hearing without hindering your performance.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Safeguard Your Hearing
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace setting. And some other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
There are most likely a few reasons for this:
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction 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.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be excited to take your place. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music business, from crew members to producers, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is essentially a truly damaging mindset.
There are two big reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. 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 sound when she was placed directly in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much noise, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and overall loss of hearing because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of individuals who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
Everyone from rock star and their roadies to wedding Dj’s to classical musicians 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 chance that injury will become irreparable.
You can be protected without compromising musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically manufactured for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your ears will be safeguarded without reducing the quality of sound.
Transforming The Culture in The Music Industry
You can get the right 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 huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently displaying some success. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.