If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. Strangely, that isn’t the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They think hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But certain new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. Injury to the ears, damage that inevitably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are proven ways and means to protect your ears without hindering your performance.
Safeguarding Your Hearing in a Loud Setting
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud environment. And many other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re performing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it might impede one’s ability to hear. This resistance is usually rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to have a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to take your place. So some musicians might not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
Regrettably, this mentality 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 industry such as roadies and bartenders go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s transforming for two significant reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a particular performance, a viola player was seated immediately in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be exposed to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced serious hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and ruled in favor of the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Unavoidable For Musicians
In the music business the number of people who have tinnitus is mindblowingly 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. There is an escalating chance of suffering irreversible damage the more acoustic shock a person endures.
Using modern hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without decreasing the musical capabilities of anybody. Your ears will be safeguarded without reducing the quality of sound.
Transforming The Music Culture
The correct hearing protection equipment is available and ready. 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 a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But it doesn’t have to be. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.