Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your living. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for all musicians. Curiously, that isn’t the case. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the industry. The predominant mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

But various new legal legislations and a concerted undertaking to confront that culture finally appear to be changing that mindset. It shouldn’t ever be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are established ways to safeguard the ears, that’s especially true.

Safeguarding Your Ears in a Noisy Setting

Obviously, musicians aren’t the only individuals who are exposed to a noisy workplace environment. And some other professionals undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues brought on by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other professions like manufacturing and construction.

Probably this has a couple of reasons:

  • In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be happy to take your place. So many musicians just quietly cope with inadequate hearing protection.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing environments have many hazards. So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. If it seems like it might impede the ability to hear, there can be some resistance to using hearing protection. This resistance is commonly rooted in false information, it should be mentioned.

Sadly, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an influence on more than just musicians. Others who are working in the music industry, from roadies to producers, are implicitly expected to buy into what is fundamentally a truly damaging mentality.

Norms Are Changing

There are two reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. A milestone case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. A viola player, during a performance, was exposed to 130dB of sound when she was seated immediately in front of the brass section. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!

Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that volume of sound. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player experienced severe hearing impairment due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.

When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and ruled in favor of the viola player, it was a very clear signal that the music industry would need to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the music industry needs to commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians

In the music industry the number of individuals who are afflicted by 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 likelihood that injury will become irreversible.

You can be protected without compromising musical capabilities by using earplugs that are specifically manufactured for musicians or other cutting-edge hearing protection devices. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be safeguarded.

Changing The Attitude in The Music Industry

You can take advantage of the right hearing protection right now. 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 big one, is one that’s already demonstrating success (the decision against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to pay attention to this problem).

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

Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want to miss a beat, ask us how to protect your ears.

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