If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. But generally speaking, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept loss of hearing. The predominant mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by various new legal rulings and focused public safety efforts. Injury to the ears, injury that inescapably results in loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are established methods and means to protect your hearing without hampering your performance.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Noisy Setting
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. And some other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues brought on by loud noise. But other professions, like manufacturing and construction, have been faster to embrace practical levels of ear protection.
There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be happy to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material nightly, they have to be able to hear very well. If it seems like it will hinder hearing, there can be some opposition to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is typically based on false information, it should be noted.
Unfortunately, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on others besides just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who work in the music industry such as roadies and producers go along with this unsafe mentality.
Thankfully, that’s transforming for two big reasons. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of sound when she was placed immediately in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be exposed to that volume of sound. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should not think of itself a special circumstance.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music business the number of people who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
Everyone from wedding DJs to classical music performers to rock stars and their roadies are in danger of experiencing “acoustic shock,” a response to very loud noises which includes the onset of tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that damage will become permanent.
You can be protected without reducing musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Music Culture
The ideal hearing protection hardware is ready and available. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This undertaking, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is exceptionally common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.