Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their ears should be a high priority for every musician. Curiously, that isn’t the case. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The prevailing attitude appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and concerted public safety campaigns. Damage to the ears, damage that inescapably causes hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to safeguard your hearing without hindering your performance.
When You’re in a Loud Surrounding, Safeguard Your Ears
Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud surrounding. And some other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly adopted by other professions like construction and manufacturing.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- In countless artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be excited to take your place. So some musicians may not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
- A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same material regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it might affect one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is commonly due to false information.
Regrettably, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music business like roadies and bartenders go along with this harmful mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Thankfully, that’s transforming for two big reasons. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a particular performance, a viola player was sitting directly in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player suffered 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 ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a definite signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special case and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians
The number of individuals in the music industry who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an increasing chance of having permanent damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
Utilizing modern hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical capabilities of anybody. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Music Attitude
You can take advantage of the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the mindset 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 demonstrating success (The industry is getting a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss should never be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.