Your hearing is your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But in general, that’s not the way it is. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the music business. The predominant mindset appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But some new legal legislations and a concerted effort to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are proven methods to safeguard the hearing, that’s especially true.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Setting
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a loud workplace setting. And many other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing problems brought on by loud noise. But other professions, like manufacturing and construction, have been quicker to embrace basic levels of hearing protection.
There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:
- A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.
- Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music every day. If it seems like it will impede hearing, there can be some resistance to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be mentioned.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to have an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be happy to take your place. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
This “part of the job” mindset impacts more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implied expectation that others who work in the music industry like crew members and producers go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
Fortunately, that’s changing for two major reasons. A landmark legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a particular concert, a viola player was placed right in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In most cases, if you were going to be exposed to that much sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But the viola player experienced 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 immune from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should not think of itself a special case.
A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing
In the music business the number of individuals who suffer from tinnitus is staggeringly 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that damage will become irreparable.
Using modern hearing protection devices, including specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anyone. Your ears will be protected without reducing sound quality.
Changing The Culture in The Music Industry
The correct hearing protection equipment is available and ready. Changing the culture in the music business, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. This undertaking, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already demonstrating results (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 extremely common. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss should never be “just part of the job”.
Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.