If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their ears. But generally speaking, that’s not the situation. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. They believe loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
But some new legal rulings and a focused effort to challenge that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to protect your hearing without hindering your performance.
Safeguarding Your Hearing in a Noisy Environment
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace setting. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But other occupations, like manufacturing and construction, have been faster to adopt practical levels of hearing protection.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same material regularly. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
- In many artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians may not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.
Regrettably, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who work in the music business such as crew members and producers go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a certain concert, a viola player was sitting directly in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much sound, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long bouts 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 handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, it was a clear signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should not think of itself a special case.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Inevitable For Musicians
In the music business the number of individuals who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to boost awareness around the world.
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. There is an escalating chance of having permanent damage the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
You can be protected without compromising musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be protected without decreasing the quality of sound.
Transforming The Music Attitude
The right hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently showing some success. (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss should never be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.