If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. But generally speaking, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. The existing mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But certain new legal legislations and a concerted effort to challenge that culture finally seem to be transforming that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are proven ways to safeguard the ears, that’s especially true.
When You’re in a Noisy Surrounding, Safeguard Your Ears
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only class of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by loud noise. But other occupations, such as construction or manufacturing, have been quicker to undertake basic levels of ear protection.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be excited to take your place. So many musicians simply cope with poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same material night after night, they need to be capable of hearing very well. If it seems as if it might hinder the ability to hear, there can be some opposition to using hearing protection. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
Unfortunately, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that others who are working in the music business like roadies and producers go along with this unsafe mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s changing for two significant reasons. A milestone 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 seated right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be available when someone is going to be exposed to that much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced extreme hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special circumstance and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians
In the music industry the number of those who have tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s the reason that around the world there’s a campaign to raise awareness.
Everyone from rock star and their roadies to wedding Dj’s to classical musicians 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 suffering permanent damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
You can be protected without decreasing musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Music Attitude
You can get the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This endeavor, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing success (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.