Your ears are your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. Strangely, that isn’t the case. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The existing mindset appears 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 mindset. Damage to the ears, injury 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.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Setting
Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a loud workplace setting. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the damage as a consequence of loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly embraced by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be happy to take your place. So many musicians just quietly deal with poor hearing protection.
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same material every day. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s hearing ability. This resistance is typically based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (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.
Sadly, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. Others who work in the music business, from roadies to producers, are implicitly expected to buy into what is ultimately an extremely harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s transforming for two big reasons. A landmark legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a certain performance, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be exposed to that much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced serious hearing damage due to that lack of protection, damage that involved long bouts of tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, it was a definite signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional situation and instead commit to proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Inevitable For Musicians
The number of those in the music business who suffer from tinnitus is staggeringly 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the probability that injury will become permanent.
You can be protected without inhibiting musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically manufactured for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your ears will be protected without reducing sound quality.
Changing The Culture in The Music Industry
You can take advantage of the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This undertaking, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss 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.