Your hearing is your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. Curiously, that isn’t the situation. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. The prevailing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by some new legal rulings and focused public safety campaigns. It shouldn’t ever be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. That’s especially true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your ears without hindering your performance.
When You’re in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Ears
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud environment. And many other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly implemented by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same material regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it may impede one’s ability to hear. This resistance is commonly based on false information, it should be mentioned.
- No matter how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be exciting to be in your place. So many musicians just quietly cope with poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, unfortunately. Others who are working in the music business, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is ultimately an extremely damaging mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two major reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a concert, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was placed directly in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered extreme hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss
The number of individuals in the music business who have 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 hearing loss. There is an increasing chance of having irreversible injury the more acoustic shock a person endures.
Deploying contemporary hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without limiting the musical abilities of anybody. Your ears will be protected without decreasing the quality of sound.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can get the correct hearing protection right now. At this time, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to safeguard your ears.