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

Your ears are your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for every musician. Oddly, 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 certain new legal rulings and a concerted undertaking to confront that culture finally seem to be transforming that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be considered to be just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. That’s especially true when there are proven methods and means to protect your hearing without hindering your performance.

When You’re in a Loud Environment, Safeguard Your Ears

Of course, musicians are not the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace environment. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the damage caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly embraced by other professions like construction and manufacturing.

more than likely this has a couple of reasons:

  • In countless artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to be given a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians just quietly cope with inadequate hearing protection.
  • A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well when performing, even when they’re performing the same music every day. If it seems as if it might impede the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.

This “part of the job” mindset affects more than just the musicians, sadly. Others who are working in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly expected to subscribe to what is essentially a truly damaging mentality.

Norms Are Changing

Fortunately, that’s changing for two big reasons. A milestone legal ruling against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. While in a particular concert, a viola player was sitting right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of noise. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!

In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that amount of 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 given hearing protection.

When the courts found The Royal Opera House at fault and ruled in favor of 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 needs to commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.

Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate

The number of people in the music business who are afflicted by tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to boost awareness worldwide.

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 loss of hearing. There is an increasing chance of having irreversible damage the more acoustic shock a person endures.

Deploying current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing 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 Attitude in The Music Business

The ideal hearing protection hardware is ready and available. At this point, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment community. That’s a huge undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently displaying some success. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).

Tinnitus is extremely common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. Hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.

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

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