What do Phil Collins, Ozzy Osbourne and will.i.am have in common? They have all struggled with hearing health.
Hearing is an essential tool for not just for musicians, but for all of us in this industry. The frequent, prolonged exposure to the loud volume of concerts and crowds puts music industry professionals at greater risk for tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss.
Earlier this year, Help Musicians UK found that 40.5% of respondents to their Musician’s Hearing Survey had experienced some hearing damage. Researchers in Germany used data from three statutory health insurance providers and found professional musicians were four times more likely to experience some level of hearing loss and 57% more likely to have tinnitus – a persistent ringing in their ears – then members of the general population. More recent studies have shown similar risks to venue staff, DJs, music teachers and other professionals with frequent occupational exposure to music.
Noise induced hearing loss is permanent, and preventable.
Talk to your doctor or an audiologist about any hearing issues you’re experiencing (ringing, tinnitus, or increased noise sensitivity). Don’t wait until an unpleasant situation becomes unbearable to get expert advice. Even if you are already experienced noise-induced hearing loss, intervention can keep it from growing worse.
Think about your cumulative exposure. It may seem counter-intuitive, but classical musicians report more noise-induced hearing loss than rock musicians. Even though the peak volume at a rock concert may well be higher, classical musicians often spend more hours a week performing, teaching and practicing, which makes their overall exposure higher on average. Remember it is not just the volume, but also the length of exposure, that contributes to hearing damage.
Let your ears rest. Most concertgoers experience some hearing loss the following day, and professionals are no different. Your ears need 12 to 18 hours of quiet after exposures to loud sounds to return to normal hearing. So take your breaks in quiet areas whenever possible, and plan on quiet days to allow your ears to recover. Also consider the other loud situations you encounter day to day and how you can minimize exposure outside of your professional life.
Use Protection. Traditional earplugs muffle low-to-mid range frequencies, but there are plenty of options for musicians that can provide greater protection while minimizing distortion. An audiologist or other hearing health care professional should be consulted to help you choose the protection best suited to your type of work.
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