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

Your ears are your most precious instrument if you are a professional musician. So protecting their hearing should be a high priority for all musicians. But in general, that’s not the case. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. The predominant attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

That attitude, however, is starting to be challenged by some new legal rulings and focused public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably leads to hearing loss, should never be “part of the job”. When there are established methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.

When You Are in a Noisy Surrounding, Safeguard Your Ears

Of course, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. And some other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But other occupations, like construction or manufacturing, have been quicker to undertake basic levels of ear protection.

There are probably a few reasons for this:

  • Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re performing the same material every day. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as though it might interfere with one’s ability to hear. This resistance is usually based on false information, it should be mentioned.
  • A construction or manufacturing 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.
  • However severely you’re treated as an artist, there’s usually a feeling that you’re lucky and that someone would be pleased to be in your position. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or complain about poor hearing protection.

Regrettably, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that others who are working in the music industry such as roadies and bartenders go along with this unsafe mindset.

Changing Norms

Thankfully, that’s changing for two significant reasons. The first is a milestone case against the Royal Opera House in London. A viola player, during a concert, was subjected to 130dB of sound when she was placed immediately in front of the brass section. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!

In most cases, if you had to be exposed to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the situation, and the viola player suffered extreme hearing damage because of that lack of protection, damage that included long bouts of tinnitus.

When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, it was a very clear message that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as an exceptional case and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors concerned.

A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Hearing Loss

The number of people in the music business who have tinnitus is staggeringly high. And that’s why there’s a campaign to raise 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 hearing loss. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the probability that damage will become irreversible.

You can be protected without limiting musical abilities by wearing earplugs that are specially manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.

Transforming The Music Attitude

The correct hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this point, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the culture within the music and entertainment industry. That’s a huge task, but it’s one that’s currently displaying some results. (The industry is getting an eye opener with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).

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

Are you a musician? Ask us how to safeguard your hearing without missing a beat.

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