If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So safeguarding their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. But overall, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by certain new legal rulings and concerted public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably causes hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are proven ways to safeguard the hearing, that’s particularly true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Noisy Environment
Of course, musicians are not the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace setting. Nor are they the only class of workers who have developed a fatalistic approach to the damage caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly implemented by other occupations like construction and manufacturing.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- Even if a musician is playing the same material every night, they need to be able to hear very well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s hearing ability. This resistance is typically rooted in false information, it should be mentioned.
- However harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be grateful to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with poor hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
Sadly, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that others who are working in the music industry such as crew members and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.
Norms Are Changing
There are two major reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a certain performance, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly comparable to a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you were going to be subjected to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered severe hearing damage because of that lack of protection, damage that included long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, it was a very clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
The number of individuals in the music business who suffer from 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. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that injury will become permanent.
Deploying modern hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. Your ears will be safeguarded without limiting sound quality.
Transforming The Culture in The Music Industry
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 undertaking, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.