Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their hearing. Curiously, that’s not the situation. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They think hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Injury to the ears, damage that inevitably causes hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are proven methods to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Safeguard Your Hearing
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the injury caused by loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other professions such as construction and manufacturing.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- In many artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to have an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be excited to be in your position. So some musicians may not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, or so 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 when performing, even when they’re performing the same music every day. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to misinformation.
Unfortunately, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who are working in the music industry such as roadies and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is changing, fortunately. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was seated right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be exposed to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and general loss of hearing because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they sent a signal that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should not think of itself a special circumstance.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians
The number of individuals in the music business who have tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness around the world.
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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that injury will become irreparable.
Using contemporary hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anyone. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Music Culture
The right hearing protection hardware is ready and available. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t matter what your job is, loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.