If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be fairly protective of their ears. Strangely, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They think hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by some new legal rulings and concerted public safety efforts. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are established methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Safeguard Your Hearing
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud surrounding. And many other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing problems caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly embraced by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- However severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be glad to be in your place. So some musicians might not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material nightly, they need to be able to hear very well. If it seems like it might impede hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to misinformation.
- 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 influences more than just the musicians, unfortunately. Others who work in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is essentially a truly harmful mindset.
There are two reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a particular performance, a viola player was sitting directly in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But the viola player experienced long bouts of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they sent a message 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 appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
The number of individuals in the music industry who are afflicted by tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness around the world.
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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an escalating chance of having irreversible damage the more acoustic shock a person endures.
You can be protected without diminishing musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Business
The right hearing protection hardware is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing success (The industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without missing a beat.