Professional musicians at greater risk of developing hearing loss

Popularity, wealth, and screaming fans — these are some of the words and phrases you’d use to describe the everyday life of a professional musician. But what you likely wouldn’t take into account is “hearing loss” or “tinnitus,” the not-so-enjoyable side-effects of all that prominence, wealth, and screaming. The bittersweet irony is, a musician’s hearing is just what is most vulnerable to harm from the performance of their craft.

The fact is, musicians are close to four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss compared with the average person, as indicated by researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. The study also revealed that professional musicians are up to 57% more likely to develop tinnitus — a disorder connected with a on going ringing in the ears.

The root cause: recurring subjection to high decibel noise. With time, very loud noise will irreparably cause harm to the hair cells of the inner ear, which are the sensory receptors responsible for transferring sound to the brain. Like an ample patch of grass worn out from repeated trampling, the hair cells can similarly be destroyed from repeated overexposure to loud noise – the dissimilarity, of course, being that you can’t grow brand new hair cells.

Louder is not better

To demonstrate the issue, hearing loss begins with repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to quantify loudness). That might not mean very much to you, until you consider the decibel levels connected with typical activities:

  • Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)

  • Normal conversation at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)

  • Motorcycle: 100 dB

  • Front row at a rock show: 120 to 150 dB

In non-technical terms, rock concerts are literally ear-splittingly loud, and recurring unguarded exposure can cause some major harm, which, regretfully, many prominent musicians have recently attested to.

Chris Martin, the lead singer for the music group Coldplay, has dealt with with Tinnitus for a decade. Martin said::

“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”

Other significant musicians that suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams, and more, many of which show regret that they hadn’t done more to protect their ears all through their careers. According to Lars Ulrich from Metallica:

“If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

How musicians can protect their ears with high fidelity musician’s plugs

Even though musicians are at greater risk for developing hearing loss or tinnitus, the threat can be considerably decreased by assuming protective measures. As a result of the unique requirements of musicians — and the significance of conserving the detBecause of the specialized needs of musicians — and the significance of maintaining the details of sound — the first step is to schedule an appointment with an hearing specialist.

Here’s a typical error: musicians will often wait to see an audiologist until they experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • A ringing or buzzing noise in the ears

  • Any pain or discomfort in the ears

  • Difficulty understanding speech

  • Difficulty following conversations in the presence of background noise

The issue is, when these symptoms are found to exist, the damage has already been done. So, the best thing a musician can do to deter long-term, permanent hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist before symptoms are present.

If you’re a musician, an hearing specialist can recommend custom made musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will protect your hearing without diminishing your musical performance. As a musician, you have unique needs for hearing and hearing protection, and audiologists or hearing specialists are the experts specifically trained to supply you with this custom made protection.

Additionally, remember that it’s not only musicians at risk: concert-goers are just as vulnerable. So the next time you’re front row at a rock concert, remember that 120 decibels of hair-cell-killing volume is pumping directly from the speakers right into your ears.