Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their ears. Oddly, that isn’t the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by various new legal legislations and concerted public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, injury that inescapably causes loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are proven ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
When You’re in a Noisy Environment, Protect Your Ears
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the injury as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- Even if a musician is playing the same material night after night, they need to be capable of hearing very well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s hearing ability. This resistance is commonly rooted in false information, it should be noted.
- 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.
- In many artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be happy to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or complain about inadequate hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, sadly. There’s an implicit expectation that others who work in the music business like roadies and bartenders go along with this unsafe mentality.
There are two big reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a landmark legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was seated right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much sound, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player experienced 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, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional circumstance and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of individuals 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 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that injury will become permanent.
You can be protected without decreasing musical abilities by using earplugs that are specifically created for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Business
You can get the right hearing protection right now. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This undertaking, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But it doesn’t have to be. Loss of hearing shouldn’t ever 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.