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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 living. So protecting their ears should be a high priority for every musician. But overall, that’s not the way it is. Many musicians just accept loss of hearing. The predominant mindset seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

But some new legal legislations and a concerted undertaking to challenge that culture finally seem to be changing that attitude. It should never be regarded as just “part of the job” to cause loss of hearing. When there are established methods to protect the hearing, that’s particularly true.

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

Professional musicians, obviously, are not the only people to work in a potentially noisy environment. Nor are they the only class of workers who have formulated a fatalistic approach to the damage caused by loud noise. But other occupations, such as manufacturing and construction, have been quicker to embrace basic levels of ear protection.

Probably this has a couple of reasons:

  • A construction or manufacturing environment is replete with hazards (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.
  • Even if a musician is playing the same material nightly, they have to be able to hear quite well. If it seems like it will impede hearing, there can be some resistance to wearing hearing protection. This resistance is typically based on misinformation, it should be mentioned.
  • 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 else who would be willing to take your place. So many musicians may not want to make waves or whine about poor hearing protection.

Regrettably, this outlook that “it’s just part of the job” has an affect on others besides just musicians. Others who work in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to subscribe to what is essentially a very harmful mindset.

Changing Norms

Fortunately, that’s changing for two significant reasons. A landmark case against The Royal Opera House in London is the first. During a certain performance, a viola player was sitting right in front of the brass section and exposed to over 130dB of noise. That’s roughly comparable to a full-blown jet engine!

Hearing protection should always be provided when someone is going to be exposed to that volume of sound. But the viola player suffered with long bouts of tinnitus and general hearing loss because she wasn’t provided hearing protection.

When the courts ruled against the Royal Opera House and handed down a ruling in favor of the viola player, they delivered a signal that the music industry would no longer be exempt from workplace hearing protection requirements, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in appropriate hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.

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

In the music industry the number of people 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 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 hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. There is an increasing chance of suffering irreparable injury the more acoustic shock a person endures.

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

Transforming The Culture in The Music Industry

You can get the correct hearing protection right now. Changing the culture in the music industry, at this point, is the key to protecting the hearing of musicians. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s already showing some results. (the judgment against the Royal Opera House has definitely created some urgency for the industry to get in line).

In the industry, tinnitus is especially common. But it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t matter what your job is, loss of hearing should never be “just part of the job”.

Do you play music professionally? Contact us to find out how to safeguard your hearing without hurting your performance.

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