If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for all musicians. But overall, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. They think loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by some new legal rulings and focused public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably causes hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are established ways and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Safeguarding Your Hearing in a Noisy Environment
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace setting. And many other professionals 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.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this:
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Even if a musician is playing the same material nightly, they have to be able to hear quite well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.
- In countless artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be excited to take your place. So many musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, regrettably. Others who are working in the music industry, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is ultimately a very harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Thankfully, that’s changing for two big reasons. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was seated immediately in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced severe hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, it was a very clear signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of people who suffer from 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 loss of hearing. There is an increasing chance of suffering permanent damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
Using modern hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical capabilities of anyone. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Business
You can take advantage of the right hearing protection right now. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the culture within the music and entertainment industry. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Ask us how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.