Musicians and Hearing Impairment
When we think of professions that lead to hearing loss we mostly think of construction work or factory-based professions; seldom do we think of musicians. Professional musicians endure loud noises during their practice sessions, at recording studios and especially at concerts. This constant exposure to loud sounds puts them at risk for hearing loss.
Hearing loss that is noise induced results from being exposed constantly to extremely high levels (over 85 decibels [dB]) of sound. The first on the list of musicians with hearing loss are rock stars due to their constant exposure to over 120dB of sound levels. Several renowned musicians such as Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and Ozzy Osbourne suffer from hearing loss. The fact that musicians expose themselves to loud music without any ear protection is a huge contributing factor to hearing loss.
Rock stars may be more obvious of a choice for musicians with hearing loss, but even classical musicians run the risk of developing hearing loss. A Norwegian study assessing musicians in large orchestras reported that forty-three percent of orchestra-musicians suffer from hearing loss. This means that 2 out of 5 musicians in an orchestra endure hearing loss. Furthermore, over seventy five percent of orchestra-musicians suffer from either temporary or permanent tinnitus which is the ringing sensation within the ears.
Although classical music may not appear as loud and disruptive as rock music, constant exposure to loud or shrill instruments such as violins, flutes, or percussion instruments during practice sessions and at concert halls can lead to hearing loss. This is because musical instruments can reach levels of 100dB and above, which is detrimental for the ears.
Suffering from hearing loss as a musician can signal the end of one’s musical career. The study of the orchestra musicians from Norway indicated that eighty two percent of the participants experienced ear pain after playing and had already begun to indicate early symptoms of hearing impairment.
One of the basic ways to protect musicians from hearing loss is to encourage them to wear protective equipment while playing music. Even though the musicians in Norway expressed concern over their hearing loss, majority of them admitted to not wearing any form of protective hearing equipment. Specialized hearing equipment that is designed specifically for musicians is available and it would be prudent for all musicians to wear such equipment during practice and at concerts to protect their hearing from further damage.