Music lovers and musicians of every genre can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following in regards to the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a typical problem for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and fail to use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study revealed that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to grapple with noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another profession. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
These results are not surprising for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels (dB). The ability of the nerve cells to deliver messages from the ears to the brain, as reported by one study, can begin to degrade with exposure to noise above 110 dB. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-induced hearing loss can impact musicians who play all types of music, but those who play the loudest music generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of many rock musicians.
One musician who struggles with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Frequent and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. Over the years, Townshend has handled these issues in a few different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Significant hearing loss as a result of loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent hearing in his left ear and, in his right he lost 30 percent.
Van Halen consulted with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to deal with his worsening hearing loss. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Townshend and Van Halen are only two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to experience noise-induced hearing issues.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who found another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss effectively. And while she may not have Clapton’s worldwide name recognition or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a set of hearing aids that have helped to resurrect her career.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years from stages in London’s West End. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered considerable hearing loss. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she discloses that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.