If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. Curiously, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. The predominant attitude appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally seem to be changing that mindset. Injury to the ears, injury that inevitably results in loss of hearing, should never be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are established ways and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.
Protecting Your Ears in a Noisy Setting
Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are exposed to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the injury as a consequence of loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to adopt basic levels of ear protection.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- Regardless of how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re fortunate and that someone would be exciting to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same material every night, they have to be able to hear very well. If it seems like it will hamper hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
This “part of the job” mindset impacts more than just the musicians, regrettably. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who are working in the music industry such as crew members and bartenders go along with this harmful mindset.
There are two major reasons that this is changing, fortunately. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a particular concert, a viola player was placed directly in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of sound. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long bouts of tinnitus and overall hearing loss because she wasn’t given hearing protection.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the music industry needs to invest in hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music industry the number of individuals 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 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. There is an increasing chance of having permanent injury the more acoustic shock a person withstands.
You can be protected without reducing musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically designed for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Transforming The Culture in The Music Industry
You can take advantage of the ideal hearing protection right now. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (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. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to safeguard your ears.