If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. But generally speaking, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They believe loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
But some new legal rulings and a focused undertaking to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. It should never be considered just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to protect your hearing without hindering your performance.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Environment
Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But other professions, like manufacturing and construction, have been faster to adopt basic levels of hearing protection.
There are probably a number of reasons for this:
- Regardless of how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re fortunate and that somebody would be pleased to be in your position. So many musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Even if a musician is performing the same music every night, they have to be capable of hearing very well. If it seems like it might hinder hearing, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is usually rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
Unfortunately, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on others besides just musicians. Others who are working in the music business, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is fundamentally a very harmful mentality.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s changing for two major reasons. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of noise when she was placed directly in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
In the majority of cases, if you were going to be exposed to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player suffered with long bouts of tinnitus and general loss of hearing because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.
When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional situation and instead commit to proper hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss
In the music industry the number of people who are afflicted by tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise awareness worldwide.
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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that injury will become irreversible.
You can be protected without limiting musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially created for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Business
You can get the ideal hearing protection right now. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment community. This endeavor, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (The industry is getting an eye opener with the decision against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss should never be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.
Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.