Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their ears should be a high priority for every musician. Curiously, that isn’t the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. The predominant attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a concerted effort to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that attitude. It shouldn’t ever be considered just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are proven methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.
Safeguarding Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud environment. And some other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other professions like construction and manufacturing.
more than likely this has a couple of reasons:
- 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.
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be excited to take your place. So many musicians may not want to rock the boat or complain about inadequate hearing protection.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. If it seems like it will hinder the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is typically rooted in false information, it should be mentioned.
Regrettably, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on more than just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who are working in the music industry such as roadies and security go along with this unsafe mindset.
Fortunately, that’s changing for two significant reasons. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a certain concert, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be exposed to that volume of sound. But the viola player experienced long periods of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, they sent a message that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special case and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
The number of individuals in the music business who are afflicted by 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that injury will become irreversible.
Deploying current hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without diminishing the musical abilities of anybody. Your ears will be protected without limiting the quality of sound.
Transforming The Attitude in The Music Industry
The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This undertaking, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing success (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.