Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But in general, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. The existing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a focused undertaking to challenge that culture finally appear to be transforming that mindset. Injury to the ears, injury that inevitably leads to hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are proven ways to protect the ears, that’s especially true.
When You Are in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Hearing
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have developed a fatalistic approach to the damage caused by loud noise. But other occupations, such as manufacturing and construction, have been quicker to undertake practical levels of hearing protection.
There are probably a number of reasons for this:
- In many artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be happy to be in your position. So many musicians simply deal with inadequate hearing protection.
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it might impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
This “part of the job” culture influences more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music industry, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is essentially an extremely damaging mindset.
Norms Are Changing
There are two big reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a particular performance, a viola player was seated right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you had to be exposed to that much sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player suffered extreme hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they sent a message that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special situation and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music business the number of individuals who are afflicted by 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. There is an increasing chance of having irreversible damage the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
Using current hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without decreasing the musical capabilities of anyone. Your hearing will be protected without limiting the quality of sound.
Transforming The Attitude in The Music Business
You can take advantage of the ideal hearing protection right now. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment community. This endeavor, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is very common in the industry. 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”.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.