If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be rather protective of their hearing. Curiously, that isn’t the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by certain new legal rulings and concerted public safety campaigns. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. That’s especially true when there are proven ways and means to safeguard your hearing without hampering your performance.
When You Are in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Ears
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud environment. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the harm caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other professions like construction and manufacturing.
most likely this is because of a couple of things:
- In countless artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to have a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be willing to take your place. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- 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 reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s ability to hear. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
Unfortunately, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music industry such as roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mentality.
There are two major reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. A landmark case 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 seated immediately in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced serious hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, it was a clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional circumstance and instead invest in proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss
The number of individuals in the music business 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 loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that injury will become irreversible.
You can be protected without diminishing musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Attitude in The Music Business
The ideal hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. This undertaking, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing results (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is very common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.