Music lovers and musicians of every genre can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following in regards to the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
While physical pain may not accompany the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to take a toll on those playing it. Many musicians discover that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are nearly four times more likely to deal with noise-related hearing loss than non-musicians based on one German study. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have consistent ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.
These results are not surprising for musicians who frequently produce or receive exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes higher than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can impact musicians who play all styles of music, but those who play the loudest tunes generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been many notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at least, delayed, because of noise-induced hearing loss.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has utilized several different methods to manage the issue.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to play acoustically. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 show and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also experienced substantial hearing loss due to excessive noise levels. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Searching for a way to reduce the continued deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. This allowed him to hear the music more clearly and at a lower volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man ultimately was so successful with this prototype that he started 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 many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own bout with hearing loss successfully. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to resurrect her career by using a set of hearing aids.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years from stages in London’s West End. Paige experienced extensive hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige disclosed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
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.