Your hearing is your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But overall, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. The existing attitude appears to be: “it’s just part of the job”.
But various new legal rulings and a concerted effort to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that attitude. It should never be considered just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are proven methods to protect the ears, that’s especially true.
Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment
Of course, musicians are not the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only group of professionals who have developed a fatalistic approach to the injury as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly implemented by other occupations such as manufacturing and construction.
Probably this is because of a couple of things:
- The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have many hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
- Regardless of how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s always a feeling that you’re lucky and that somebody would be happy to be in your position. So many musicians just quietly deal with poor hearing protection.
- Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well while performing, even when they’re performing the same music regularly. If it seems like it might impede hearing, there can be some opposition to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is normally due to false information.
Regrettably, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that others who work in the music industry like crew members and security go along with this unsafe mentality.
Norms Are Changing
There are two reasons that this is changing, thankfully. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a certain concert, a viola player was seated directly in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!
Hearing protection needs to always be available when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But the viola player experienced long periods 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, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer exempt from workplace hearing protection guidelines, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.
Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Inevitable For Musicians
In the music business the number of those 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 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. There is an increasing chance of suffering irreparable damage the more acoustic shock a person sustains.
Using current hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.
Transforming The Music Attitude
The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. Changing the culture 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 industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Loss of hearing should never be “part of the job,” regardless of what job you happen to have.
Are you a musician? Ask us how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.