Your ears are your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their ears. Oddly, that isn’t the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by various new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Injury to the ears, injury that inescapably results in loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven ways and means to protect your ears without eroding your performance.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy environment. And many other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other occupations like manufacturing and construction.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this:
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re performing the same material every day. If it seems as if it might hamper hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is typically rooted in false information, it should be noted.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have a lot of hazards. So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Regardless of how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be exciting to be in your place. So many musicians might not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” culture affects more than just the musicians, sadly. There’s an implicit expectation that others who are working in the music business like roadies and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
Thankfully, that’s transforming for two major reasons. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a certain performance, a viola player was seated right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be exposed to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long bouts of tinnitus and overall loss of hearing because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, it was a very clear signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should not think of itself a special circumstance.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of those who are afflicted by 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that injury will become irreversible.
Using current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without diminishing the musical capabilities of anyone. Your ears will be safeguarded without reducing the quality of sound.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can take advantage of the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This endeavor, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided 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 should never be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.