If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So protecting their ears should be a high priority for all musicians. Oddly, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. They believe hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally seem to be changing that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are proven ways to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud surrounding. Nor are they the only class of workers who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the damage caused by loud noise. But other professions, like construction or manufacturing, have been quicker to adopt practical levels of ear protection.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to have an opportunity, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be happy to take your place. So many musicians just quietly deal with poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is playing the same music night after night, they have to be capable of hearing very well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s ability to hear. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- 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.
Regrettably, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. Others who are working in the music business, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is essentially an extremely harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two big reasons that this is changing, fortunately. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a particular performance, a viola player was placed 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 should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. 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 found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be immune from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians
In the music industry the number of those who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. There is an escalating chance of having irreparable injury the more acoustic shock a person endures.
You can be protected without limiting musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Transforming The Music Culture
The correct hearing protection hardware is available and ready. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing success (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But it doesn’t have to be. Loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.