Hearing Health Blog

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

If you’re a professional musician, your hearing is your livelihood. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for every musician. Curiously, that’s not the situation. Many musicians just accept hearing loss. They think hearing loss is just “part of the job”.

But various new legal rulings and a focused effort to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. Injury to the ears, injury that unavoidably leads to loss of hearing, should never be “part of the job”. When there are proven methods to protect the ears, that’s especially true.

When You Are in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Ears

Obviously, musicians are not the only people who are exposed to a loud workplace setting. And some other workers certainly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But other occupations, such as construction or manufacturing, have been faster to embrace basic levels of ear protection.

most likely this is because of a couple of things:

  • 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.
  • Even if a musician is playing the same music night after night, they have to be able to hear very well. If it seems as if it might impede the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is typically based on misinformation, it should be noted.
  • In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to have an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians just quietly cope with poor hearing protection.

This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who work in the music business, from crew members to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is ultimately a truly damaging mentality.

Changing Norms

Thankfully, that’s transforming for two significant reasons. The first is a landmark case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was subjected to 130dB of noise when she was placed right 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 had to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be provided with hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player suffered severe hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that included long bouts of tinnitus.

When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent 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 requirements, and that the industry should not think of itself as a special situation and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Inevitable For Musicians

In the music industry the number of people who have 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that’s experienced, the higher the chance that damage will become permanent.

Utilizing contemporary hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect your ears without diminishing the musical capabilities of anyone. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.

Changing The Music Attitude

The ideal hearing protection equipment is available and ready. At this time, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the mindset within the music and entertainment community. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already displaying some results. (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).

Tinnitus is incredibly common in the industry. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, loss of hearing should never be “just part of the job”.

Do you play music professionally? Ask us how to protect your hearing without hurting your performance.

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