International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. In talking about the power of music, the Jamaican-born Marley said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians learn that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
In fact, one German study discovered that working musicians are almost four times more likely to grapple with noise-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more pronounced in those musicians.
These results are no surprise for musicians who regularly produce or receive exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels (dB). One study revealed that levels above 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, degrading the ability to send electrical signals to the brain from the ears. This damage is usually irreversible.
Any type of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are riskier because they’re inherently loud. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative impact on the careers of countless rock musicians.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock group, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. Over the years, Townshend has handled these problems in a few different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and chose to perform acoustically. The noise turned out to be too loud at a 2012 show and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also dealt with significant hearing loss caused by excessive noise volumes. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 60 percent in his left.
Looking for a way to curtail the continued degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which allowed him to hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man ultimately was so successful with this prototype that he started to manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss successfully. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to revive her career by using a set of hearing aids.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years from stages in London’s West End. Paige experienced considerable hearing loss from five decades of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids every day to fight her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.