Fame, wealth, and screaming fans — these are a couple of the terms and phrases you’d pick in order to summarize the everyday life of a professional musician. however, what you probably wouldn’t take into consideration is “hearing loss” or “tinnitus,” the not-so-pleasant side-effects of all that glory, wealth, and screaming. The unfortunate paradox is, a musician’s hearing is what is most predisposed to damage from the performance of their craft.
In reality, musicians are close to four times more likely to acquire noise-induced hearing loss in contrast with the average person, according to scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. The scientific study also discovered that professional musicians are about 57% more likely to suffer from tinnitus — a disorder connected with a repeated ringing in the ears.
The culprit: recurring subjection to deafening noise. In the long run, loud noise will irreparably destroy the hair cells of the inner ear, which are the sensory receptors responsible for sending sound to the brain. Like an ample patch of grass worn out from frequent trampling, the hair cells can in a similar fashion be wiped out from repeated overexposure to loud noise – the dissimilarity, of course, being that you can’t grow brand new hair cells.
Just how loud are rock concerts?
To show the problem, hearing loss starts with recurrent exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to measure loudness). That may well not mean a great deal to you, until you reflect on the decibel levels correlated with common activities:
Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)
Regular dialogue at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)
Motorcycle: 100 dB
Front row at a rock show: 120 to 150 dB
In non-technical terms, rock shows are literally ear-splittingly loud, and continued unprotected exposure can cause some considerable harm, which, regretfully, several popular musicians have recently attested to.
Chris Martin, the lead vocalist for the band Coldplay, has dealt with with Tinnitus for a decade.
According to Martin:
"Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”
Other significant musicians that suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams, and more, many of which indicate regret that they hadn’t done more to take care of their ears all through their careers.
Lars Ulrich from Metallica stated:
"If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”
How musicians, and fans, can protect their ears
Even though musicians are at greater risk for acquiring hearing loss or tinnitus, the risk can be dramatically decreased by assuming protective measures. Considering the unique requirements of musicians — and the significance of preserving the detAs a result of the specialized requirements of musicians — and the significance of protecting the details of sound — the initial step is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist.
Here’s a typical mistake… musicians will frequently delay seeing an audiologist until they become aware of one or more of these symptoms:
A ringing or buzzing sound in the ears
Any pain or discomfort in the ears
Difficulty comprehending speech
Trouble following discussions in the presence of background noise
The trouble is, when these symptoms are present, the damage has already been done. So, the leading thing a musician can do to deter long-term, permanent hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist before symptoms are present.
If you’re a musician, an audiologist can recommend custom made musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will give protection to your hearing without limiting your musical performance. As a musician, you have unique needs for hearing and hearing protection, and audiologists or hearing specialists are the professionals specifically trained to provide this custom protection.
Additionally, remember that that it’s not only musicians at risk: concert-goers are just as susceptible. So the next time you’re front row at a rock show, know that 120 decibels of hair-cell-killing volume is pumping directly from the loudspeakers right into your ears.