International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. Marley said the following in regards to 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 people enjoying it might not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a common problem for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study found that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to grapple with noise-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have consistent ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.
Those results are no surprise for musicians who regularly produce or receive exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB). The ability of the nerve cells to deliver signals from the ears to the brain, according to one study, can begin to degrade with exposure to noise above 110 dB. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Any type of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are more hazardous because they’re inherently loud. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative impact on the careers of countless rock musicians.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing problems result from constant and repetitive exposure to loud music. Over the years, Townshend has managed these issues in a few different ways as his symptoms have progressed.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend chose to play acoustically and protect himself from direct contact with loud noises by standing behind a glass partition. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too much for the guitarist, who decided to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Considerable hearing loss as a result of 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.
Searching 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 earpiece. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. That prototype eventually became so successful that the band’s sound-man began producing them commercially and eventually sold that company to a national sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Townshend and Van Halen are only two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to encounter noise-induced hearing issues.
But successfully battling hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career by using a pair of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Paige suffered extensive hearing loss from five decades of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.
Because Paige wears her hearing aids daily, she discloses that she can still work without her condition getting in the way. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.