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

Your ears are your most important instrument if you are a professional musician. So you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their hearing. Curiously, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervading culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. They think loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.

But certain new legal rulings and a focused undertaking to challenge that culture finally appear to be changing that attitude. Damage to the ears, injury that inescapably results in loss of hearing, should never be “part of the job”. That’s especially true when there are established ways and means to safeguard your ears without hampering your performance.

When You’re in a Loud Environment, Protect Your Ears

Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a noisy workplace environment. And many other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues brought on by loud noise. But other professions, such as manufacturing and construction, have been faster to undertake practical levels of hearing protection.

Probably this is because of a couple of things:

  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re playing the same music regularly. There can be some reluctance to hearing protection that seems as though it may interfere with one’s ability to hear. This resistance is commonly rooted in misinformation, it should be noted.
  • In many artistic industries, there’s a sense that you should feel fortunate just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone who would be excited to take your place. So many musicians simply cope with inadequate hearing protection.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the manufacturing and construction environments have a lot of hazards. So donning protective equipment is something site foremen, construction workers, and managers are more likely to be accustomed to doing.

Unfortunately, this mindset that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music industry such as roadies and producers go along with this unsafe mindset.

Changing Norms

There are two big reasons that this is transforming, thankfully. The first is a landmark legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. During a certain concert, a viola player was placed directly in front of the brass section and subjected to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly equivalent to a full-sized jet engine!

Hearing protection needs to always be provided when someone is going to be subjected to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and overall loss of hearing because she wasn’t given hearing protection.

When the courts handed down a ruling against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling for the viola player, it was a definite signal that the music industry would have to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should not think of itself as an exceptional situation and instead commit to appropriate hearing protection for every employee and contractor concerned.

Loss of Hearing Shouldn’t be a Musician’s Fate

The number of those in the music business 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. There is an escalating chance of having irreparable damage the more acoustic shock a person withstands.

You can be protected without reducing musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specifically designed for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. You’ll still be capable of hearing what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.

Changing The Music Attitude

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. That’s a big undertaking, but it’s one that’s currently showing some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely provided some urgency for the industry to get in line).

In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t need to be. Hearing loss 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 safeguard your ears.

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