If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your living. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. Oddly, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. The prevailing mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a concerted undertaking to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. Injury to the ears, damage that inescapably causes loss of hearing, should never be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are established ways and means to protect your hearing without hindering your performance.
Protecting Your Ears in a Noisy Environment
Of course, musicians are not the only people who are exposed to a noisy workplace environment. And many other workers undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But other occupations, such as manufacturing and construction, have been quicker to undertake practical levels of hearing protection.
most likely this is because of a couple of things:
- In countless artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to have an opportunity, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians may not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it might interfere with one’s ability to hear. This resistance is typically based on misinformation, it should be noted.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who work in the music business, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is ultimately a truly harmful mentality.
There are two reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a concert, was exposed to 130dB of sound when she was seated directly in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that much noise, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player experienced long bouts of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a definite message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special case.
Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be The Fate of a Musician
In the music industry the number of people who have 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and loss of hearing. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that damage will become irreparable.
Deploying current hearing protection devices, such as specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical abilities of anyone. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Changing The Culture in The Music Business
The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (The industry is getting a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever 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.