Your ears are your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So safeguarding their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But in general, that’s not the case. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. They believe that loss of hearing is 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 hearing loss. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Environment
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy environment. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by loud noise. But other professions, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to undertake basic levels of hearing protection.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re performing the same material every day. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might impede one’s hearing ability. This resistance is usually rooted in false information, it should be noted.
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Regardless of how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be glad to be in your position. So many musicians simply deal with poor hearing protection.
Unfortunately, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. Others who are working in the music business, from roadies to producers, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is ultimately a truly harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was placed immediately in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and general loss of hearing because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they sent a message that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the music industry should invest in hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special case.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Inevitable For Musicians
The number of those in the music industry who have tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that damage will become permanent.
You can be protected without compromising musical abilities by using earplugs that are specially manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your ears will be protected without compromising sound quality.
Transforming The Attitude in The Music Industry
You can get the ideal hearing protection right now. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. This endeavor, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (The industry is getting a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t have to be. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.