Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. Oddly, that’s not the case. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. The prevailing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But certain new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally seem to be transforming that mindset. It should never be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are proven ways to protect the ears, that’s especially true.
When You’re in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Hearing
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a noisy workplace setting. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.
There are most likely a number of reasons for this:
- Even if a musician is performing the same material night after night, they have to be able to hear very well. If it seems like it will impede hearing, there can be some opposition to wearing hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have many hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians might not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.
Regrettably, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music business such as crew members and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.
Norms Are Changing
There are two big reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. During a certain performance, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much noise, you would be provided with hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced serious hearing impairment due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, it was a very clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
The number of people in the music business who have tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that injury will become permanent.
Deploying contemporary hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. Your ears will be safeguarded without decreasing sound quality.
Changing The Music Attitude
You can get the right hearing protection right now. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).
In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, loss of hearing should never be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.