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

If you’re a professional musician, your ears are your livelihood. So safeguarding their ears should be a high priority for every musician. Oddly, that isn’t the situation. Instead, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism regarding hearing in the music business. They believe that hearing loss is just “part of the job”.

But various new legal legislations and a focused undertaking to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that attitude. Injury to the ears, injury that unavoidably leads to hearing loss, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. That’s particularly true when there are proven methods and means to safeguard your ears without hindering your performance.

Protecting Your Ears in a Loud Setting

Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially loud surrounding. And many other professionals certainly have also developed a fatalistic approach to hearing issues caused by loud noise. But practical levels of hearing protection have been more quickly embraced by other occupations such as manufacturing and construction.

There are probably a number of reasons for this:

  • In many artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel fortunate just to be given an opportunity, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians may not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
  • The saying goes “hard hat required”. That’s because the construction and manufacturing 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.
  • Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same material regularly. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it might impede one’s ability to hear. It should also be mentioned, this resistance is usually due to false information.

This “part of the job” culture affects more than just the musicians, sadly. There’s an implied expectation that other people who work in the music business such as crew members and security go along with this unsafe mindset.

Changing Norms

There are two big reasons that this is transforming, fortunately. The first is a milestone legal ruling against the Royal Opera House in London. While in a particular performance, a viola player was sitting right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of sound. That’s about the sound equivalent of a full-blown jet engine!

In most cases, if you had to be subjected to that amount of sound, you would be given hearing protection. But the viola player experienced long periods of tinnitus and general hearing loss 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, they delivered a signal that the music industry was no longer immune from workplace hearing protection regulations, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special circumstance.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be Inevitable For Musicians

The number of those in the music industry who are afflicted by tinnitus is staggeringly 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the chance that damage will become irreversible.

You can be protected without compromising musical abilities by using 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 protected.

Changing The Music Culture

The right hearing protection equipment is ready and available. At this time, protecting the hearing of musicians is more about changing the culture within the music and entertainment community. That’s a huge task, but it’s one that’s already showing some success. (The industry is getting a reality check with the judgment against The Royal Opera House).

In the industry, tinnitus is extremely common. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, loss of hearing shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.

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