If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for every musician. But in general, that’s not the case. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. The existing mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal rulings and concerted public safety efforts. It shouldn’t ever be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are proven methods to safeguard the hearing, that’s especially true.
When You Are in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Ears
Obviously, musicians are not the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only class 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 rapidly embraced by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
There are probably a number of reasons for this:
- Even if a musician is playing the same music nightly, they have to be capable of hearing very well. If it seems like it might hamper hearing, there can be some opposition to wearing hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to have an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be excited to take your place. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
This “part of the job” mindset impacts more than just the musicians, regrettably. Others who work in the music industry, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is fundamentally a very harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s changing for two big reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was seated right in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and general hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special case and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Inevitable For Musicians
The number of individuals in the music industry who suffer from tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness worldwide.
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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an escalating chance of having irreparable damage the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
You can be protected without decreasing musical abilities by using earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be protected without reducing sound quality.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can get the ideal hearing protection right now. At this stage, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. That’s a huge task, but it’s one that’s currently displaying some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.