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 safeguarding their ears 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 industry. They believe that loss of hearing is just “part of the job”.

But various new legal rulings and a concerted effort to challenge that culture finally appear to be transforming that attitude. It should never be considered just “part of the job” to cause hearing loss. When there are established ways to safeguard the hearing, that’s especially true.

Safeguarding Your Hearing in a Noisy Environment

Professional musicians, of course, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy surrounding. Nor are they the only class of professionals who have developed a fatalistic perspective to the damage as a consequence of loud noise. But basic levels of hearing protection have been more quickly implemented by other professions like manufacturing and construction.

There are probably a number of reasons for this:

  • Musicians need to be able to hear rather well while performing, even when they’re performing the same material regularly. If it seems like it will impede hearing, there can be some opposition to using hearing protection. This resistance is typically based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
  • In countless artistic fields, there’s a sense that you should feel lucky just to be given a chance, that no matter how roughly you’re treated, there’s someone else who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians might not want to make waves or whine about inadequate hearing protection.
  • A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, as the saying goes). So construction laborers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.

This “part of the job” culture impacts more than just the musicians, unfortunately. There’s an implicit expectation that other people who work in the music industry such as roadies and security go along with this unsafe mentality.

Changing Norms

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

In the majority of cases, if you were going to be subjected to that amount of noise, you would be given hearing protection. But that wasn’t the case, and the viola player suffered serious hearing impairment due to that lack of protection, damage that included long battles with tinnitus.

When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and ruled for the viola player, it was a clear signal that the music industry would have to take hearing protection laws seriously, and that the music industry should commit to hearing protection for every employee and contractor and should stop considering itself a special case.

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Need to be Unavoidable For Musicians

The number of people in the music industry 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 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 loss of hearing, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an increasing chance of suffering permanent injury the more acoustic shock a person withstands.

You can be protected without compromising musical capabilities by wearing earplugs that are specially designed for musicians or other modern hearing protection devices. Your hearing will be safeguarded without compromising sound quality.

Changing The Music Culture

The right hearing protection equipment is available and ready. At this stage, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment industry. This task, though it’s a difficult one, is one that’s already showing success (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has certainly created some urgency for the industry to get in line).

Tinnitus is exceptionally common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be how it is. It doesn’t matter what your job is, hearing loss should never be “just part of the job”.

Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to protect your hearing without missing a beat.

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