Your ears are your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. Strangely, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. The predominant attitude appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But some new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally appear to be transforming that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to protect your ears without hampering your performance.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy environment. Nor are they the only class of workers who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly embraced by other professions like manufacturing and construction.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this:
- In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians just quietly deal with inadequate hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same music every night, they need to be able to hear very well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as if it may affect one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have a lot of hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
Regrettably, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who work in the music business such as roadies and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Thankfully, that’s changing for two major reasons. A landmark legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a particular concert, a viola player was seated right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be exposed to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced serious 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 in favor of the viola player, they delivered a message that the music industry would no longer be immune from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
The number of individuals in the music industry who are afflicted by tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost awareness around the world.
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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that injury will become irreversible.
Deploying current hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Changing The Culture in The Music Business
The ideal hearing protection hardware is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (The industry is getting an eye opener with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is very common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.