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

Your hearing is your most valuable instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be rather protective of their ears. But overall, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They believe loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.

That mindset, however, is starting to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. It should never be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are proven methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.

Protecting Your Hearing in a Loud Environment

Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a loud workplace environment. Nor are they the only group of workers who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the harm as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more rapidly embraced by other professions such as manufacturing and construction.

There are most likely a couple of reasons for this:

  • A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (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 performing the same material every night, they have to be capable of hearing quite well. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s ability to hear. This resistance is usually rooted in false information, it should be noted.
  • Regardless of how severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s normally a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be happy to be in your position. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.

Sadly, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on others besides just musicians. There’s an implicit expectation that others who work in the music business such as crew members and security go along with this harmful mentality.

Norms Are Changing

Fortunately, that’s transforming for two big reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of sound 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 exposed to that much sound, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced serious hearing impairment because of that lack of protection, damage that involved long battles with tinnitus.

When the courts found The Royal Opera House negligent and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt 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.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians

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

You can be protected without reducing musical abilities by using earplugs that are specially manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be safeguarded without decreasing the quality of sound.

Transforming The Music Culture

The right hearing protection hardware is ready and available. Changing the mindset in the music industry, 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 success (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).

Tinnitus is exceptionally common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. Loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “part of the job,” no matter what job you happen to have.

Are you a musician? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.