Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So it seems as if musicians would be rather protective of their hearing. Strangely, that isn’t the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The existing mindset 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 changing that attitude. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are established ways to safeguard the ears, that’s particularly true.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Loud Setting
Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the harm caused by 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 couple of reasons for this:
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same material every day. If it seems like it might hinder hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is usually based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to have a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians simply deal with inadequate hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implicit expectation that others who work in the music industry like crew members and producers go along with this harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two major reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a certain performance, a viola player was sitting immediately in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
In most 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 serious hearing damage because of that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a message that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
In the music industry the number of people who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness worldwide.
Everyone from rock star and their roadies to wedding Dj’s to classical musicians are in danger of experiencing “acoustic shock,” a response to very loud noises which includes the onset of tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that injury will become irreversible.
Using current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without decreasing the musical capabilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Business
The ideal hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music business, 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 showing results (the decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t have to be. 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 to miss a beat, ask us how to safeguard your ears.