Musician on stage performing with hearing protection to protect against tinnitus and hearing loss.

If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So you’d think musicians would be rather protective of their hearing. Strangely, that’s not the situation. Most musicians just accept loss of hearing. The predominant mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

That mindset, however, is beginning to be challenged by some new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Injury to the ears, injury that inevitably leads to hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are established methods to protect the hearing, that’s especially true.

Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Setting

Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a loud workplace environment. And many other workers undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly adopted by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.

Probably this has a couple of reasons:

  • No matter how harshly you’re treated as an artist, there’s usually a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be grateful to be in your position. So some musicians may not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.
  • Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same music every day. If it seems like it might hinder the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is commonly based on false information, it should be mentioned.
  • A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.

Sadly, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. Others who are working in the music business, from roadies to producers, are implicitly expected to buy into what is essentially a very harmful mentality.

Changing Norms

There are two reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. The first is a landmark legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. During a particular concert, a viola player was seated directly in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!

In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player experienced serious hearing damage because of that lack of protection, damage that included long bouts of tinnitus.

When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, they sent a message that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor involved.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians

In the music industry the number of people who are afflicted by 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 hearing loss. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that damage will become irreparable.

Utilizing contemporary hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without decreasing the musical abilities of anybody. Your hearing will be protected without decreasing sound quality.

Changing The Music Attitude

The ideal hearing protection hardware is available and ready. Changing the mindset in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already showing some success. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).

In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.

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