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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 it seems as if musicians would be fairly protective of their hearing. But in general, that’s not the situation. Instead, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. The predominant attitude appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by various new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, damage that inescapably leads to hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are established methods and means to safeguard your ears without eroding your performance.

Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Setting

Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only individuals to work in a potentially loud surrounding. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have developed a fatalistic approach to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other occupations such as construction and manufacturing.

Probably this is because of a couple of things:

  • In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to have a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with poor hearing protection.
  • A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (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.
  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re performing the same material every day. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may affect one’s ability to hear. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.

Sadly, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that others who are working in the music business like roadies and security go along with this unsafe mindset.

Norms Are Changing

Thankfully, that’s changing for two significant reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. During a certain concert, a viola player was seated immediately in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!

Hearing protection should always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But the viola player experienced long bouts of tinnitus and general loss of hearing because she wasn’t given hearing protection.

When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, it was a definite message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional case and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Unavoidable For Musicians

In the music business 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 tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that injury will become irreversible.

You can be protected without reducing musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically designed for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your ears will be protected without reducing sound quality.

Changing The Music Culture

The right hearing protection equipment is available and ready. At this stage, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment industry. This endeavor, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing results (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).

Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. 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.

Are you a musician? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.

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