Music lovers and musicians of all genres can no doubt relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
While physical pain may not accompany the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to take a toll on those playing it. Hearing loss is a common problem for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study found that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than someone working in another field. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have consistent ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
These results are not surprising for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes louder than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this type of damage to be permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all kinds of music, but musicians who play the loudest music typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative impact on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock band, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing issues result from continuous and repetitive exposure to loud music. As his symptoms have advanced over the years, Townshend has used several different approaches to deal with the problem.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. The noise proved to be too loud at a 2012 concert and the guitarist decided to leave the stage.
Significant hearing loss as a result of loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. According to Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
Searching for a way to reduce the continued degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. That earpiece would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) volume. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he began to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience 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 effectively. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to resurrect her career with a pair of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered significant hearing loss. Paige disclosed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige wears her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And for theater fans in the U.K., that’s music to the ears.