Your ears are your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So safeguarding their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. Oddly, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept hearing loss. They believe hearing loss is just “part of the job”.
But some new legal legislations and a concerted undertaking to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. Injury to the ears, damage that unavoidably leads to hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are established ways to protect the ears, that’s especially true.
When You’re in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Ears
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have formulated a fatalistic perspective to the injury caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been faster to undertake practical levels of ear protection.
There are probably a few reasons for this:
- In countless artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to have an opportunity, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be happy to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or complain about poor hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have a lot of hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Even if a musician is playing the same music nightly, they need to be capable of hearing quite well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it may affect one’s ability to hear. This resistance is typically rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
This “part of the job” culture affects more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who work in the music industry, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is essentially an extremely damaging mindset.
Norms Are Changing
Thankfully, that’s transforming for two major reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of noise when she was placed right in front of the brass section. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced severe hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.
When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a message that the music industry would no longer be exempt 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 concerned.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss
In the music industry the number of people 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. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that damage will become irreversible.
Utilizing current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without decreasing the musical abilities of anyone. Your hearing will be safeguarded without compromising sound quality.
Changing The Music Attitude
The right hearing protection hardware is ready and available. Changing the mindset in the music business, 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 decision against the Royal Opera House has definitely created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).
Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to protect your hearing without missing a beat.