International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has no doubt resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a prevalent issue for musicians who are continually exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study found that working musicians are almost four times more likely to struggle with noise-induced hearing loss than someone working in another field. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
These results are no surprise for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels (dB). One study revealed that levels louder than 110dB can begin to affect nerve cells, degrading the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is usually permanent.
Noise-related hearing loss can impact musicians who play all styles of music, but musicians who play the loudest music typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been lots of noteworthy rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at a minimum, delayed, because of noise-induced hearing loss.
One musician who struggles with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing problems are the result of constant and repeated exposure to loud music. Over the years, Townshend has managed these problems in a few different ways as his symptoms have progressed.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend decided to play acoustically and protect himself from direct exposure to loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. At a concert in 2012, the volume proved to be too much for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also dealt with significant hearing loss caused by increased noise volumes. The drummer revealed that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Looking for a way to curtail the ongoing degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he began to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with countless other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-related hearing loss.
But effectively combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to revive her career by using a set of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Five decades of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered considerable hearing loss. For years, Paige has admitted to depending on hearing aids.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids daily to combat her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.