Your ears are your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their ears should be a high priority for every musician. But generally speaking, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.
That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by some new legal legislations and focused public safety campaigns. Injury to the ears, injury that unavoidably leads to loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are proven methods to protect the ears, that’s particularly true.
Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Setting
Obviously, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace setting. Nor are they the only group of workers who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the injury as a consequence of loud noise. But other occupations, such as manufacturing and construction, have been faster to adopt basic levels of hearing protection.
Probably this has a couple of reasons:
- 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.
- In many artistic industries, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be excited to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.
- Even if a musician is performing the same material nightly, they need to be able to hear quite well. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it may impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is usually due to misinformation.
Regrettably, this mentality that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that others who work in the music business such as crew members and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.
There are two reasons that this is changing, thankfully. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a concert, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was seated right in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-sized jet engine!
In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that much noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced extreme hearing impairment due to 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, it was a clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for all contractors and employees and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.
Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate
The number of people in the music business who have tinnitus is staggeringly 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 chance that injury will become irreparable.
Deploying current hearing protection devices, such as specially manufactured earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without decreasing the musical capabilities of anyone. Your hearing will be safeguarded without limiting the quality of sound.
Changing The Attitude in The Music Industry
The ideal hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this stage, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. This task, though it’s a big one, is one that’s already showing success (The industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).
In the industry, tinnitus is very common. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.
Are you a musician? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to safeguard your ears.