If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be fairly protective of their ears. Strangely, that isn’t the situation. Most musicians just accept loss of hearing. They think loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and focused public safety efforts. Injury to the ears, damage that inevitably results in hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are proven ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the injury caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like manufacturing and construction, have been faster to embrace practical levels of ear protection.
more than likely this is because of a couple of things:
- However harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s usually a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be pleased to be in your position. So many musicians simply deal with poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is playing the same music nightly, they have to be able to hear very well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s ability to hear. This resistance is usually based on misinformation, it should be noted.
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
Regrettably, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on others besides just musicians. Others who work in the music industry, from crew members to producers, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is fundamentally an extremely damaging mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a certain concert, a viola player was sitting immediately in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you were going to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But the viola player experienced 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 ruled in favor of the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be immune from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional situation and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
The number of those 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 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that damage will become permanent.
You can be protected without limiting musical abilities by using earplugs that are specifically created for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your ears will be safeguarded without limiting sound quality.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can take advantage of the correct hearing protection right now. At this stage, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the culture within the music and entertainment community. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing success (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is very common. 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 your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.