Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. Strangely, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The predominant mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But some new legal rulings and a concerted undertaking to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that mindset. Damage to the ears, damage that inescapably causes hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are established methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.
When You’re in a Noisy Surrounding, Safeguard Your Hearing
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy environment. And many other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other professions like manufacturing and construction.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- 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.
- In many artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or complain about inadequate hearing protection.
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. If it seems as if it might hinder hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is commonly based on false information, it should be noted.
Sadly, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that others who are working in the music business such as roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mentality.
Thankfully, that’s changing for two significant reasons. A milestone legal ruling 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 placed right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player experienced 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 ruled for the viola player, they delivered a message that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional circumstance and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
The number of people in the music industry who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to raise awareness around the world.
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. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that damage will become irreparable.
You can be protected without diminishing musical abilities by using earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be protected without diminishing sound quality.
Transforming The Music Culture
You can get the right hearing protection right now. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s already displaying some success. (The industry is getting an eye opener with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.