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 you’d think musicians would be quite protective of their ears. But overall, that’s not the situation. In fact, there’s a pervasive culture of fatalism when it comes to hearing in the industry. The prevailing attitude seems to be: “it’s just part of the job”.

That attitude, however, is beginning to be challenged by certain new legal legislations and concerted public safety efforts. Damage to the ears, injury that unavoidably causes loss of hearing, shouldn’t ever be “part of the job”. When there are proven ways to protect the ears, that’s particularly true.

Protecting Your Ears in a Noisy Setting

Of course, musicians aren’t the only people who are subjected to a loud workplace environment. And some other workers undoubtedly have also developed a fatalistic perspective to hearing issues brought on by loud noise. But other occupations, like manufacturing and construction, have been faster to adopt practical levels of hearing protection.

There are probably a number of reasons for this:

  • In many artistic fields, there’s a feeling that you should feel lucky just to have a chance, that no matter how harshly you’re treated, there’s somebody who would be willing to take your place. So some musicians might not want to rock the boat or whine about poor hearing protection.
  • A manufacturing and construction environment is replete with risk (hard hat required, or so the saying goes). So construction workers, site foremen, and managers are likely more accustomed to donning protective equipment.
  • Musicians need to capable of hearing rather well when performing, even when they’re playing the same music every day. There can be some resistance to hearing protection that seems as if it may impede one’s hearing ability. It should also be noted, this resistance is commonly due to misinformation.

Sadly, this attitude that “it’s just part of the job” has an impact on others besides just musicians. Others who work in the music industry, from roadies to bartenders, are implicitly supposed to buy into what is fundamentally a very harmful mentality.

Changing Norms

Fortunately, that’s transforming for two significant reasons. A landmark legal ruling 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 directly 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 exposed to that much noise. But the viola player suffered with long periods of tinnitus and overall 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, it was a definite message that the music industry would have to take hearing protection regulations seriously, and that the industry should stop thinking of itself as a special case and instead invest in proper hearing protection for all employees and contractors involved.

A Musicians Fate Shouldn’t be Loss of hearing

In the music business the number of individuals who suffer from tinnitus is mindblowingly high. And that’s the reason why there’s a campaign to raise awareness around the world.

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. The more acoustic shock that someone experiences, the higher the likelihood that injury will become irreversible.

Using modern hearing protection devices, including specially designed earplugs and earmuffs, can help protect hearing without compromising the musical abilities of anybody. You’ll still be able to hear what you need to hear, but your ears will be protected.

Changing The Culture in The Music Industry

You can get the correct hearing protection right now. At this stage, safeguarding the hearing of musicians is more about transforming the mindset within the music and entertainment community. That’s a big task, but it’s one that’s currently showing some success. (The industry is getting a reality check with the decision against The Royal Opera House).

Tinnitus is exceptionally common in the industry. But this doesn’t have to be the way it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is, hearing loss shouldn’t ever be “just part of the job”.

Do you play music professionally? If you don’t want your performance to be impacted, ask us how to protect your ears.

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