Musicians Take Heed: This Can Harm Your Health

“Musicians

International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. In describing the power of music, the Jamaican-born Marley said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

While physical pain might not accompany the music enjoyed by adoring audiences, it’s been known to take a toll on those performing it. Hearing loss is a common problem for musicians who are continually exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.

Actually, one German study found that working musicians are almost four times more likely to grapple with noise-induced hearing loss than someone working in another profession. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have constant ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.

Those results are no surprise for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes louder than 110dB can start to affect nerve cells, degrading the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is normally irreversible.

Any style of music can be loud enough to damage the ears but some styles are riskier because they are inherently loud. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of countless rock musicians.

One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. Frequent and repeated exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. As his symptoms have developed over the years, Townshend has used numerous different methods to manage the issue.

Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and chose to perform acoustically. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to get away from the noise.

Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also dealt with significant hearing loss as a result of increased noise levels. According to Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.

Looking for a way to reduce the continued deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which allowed him to hear the music at a lower (and clearer) volume. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man started manufacturing them commercially and eventually sold that company to a national sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.

Townshend and Van Halen are only two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to experience noise-induced hearing problems.

But successfully combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career by using a set of hearing aids.

From stages in London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige experienced extensive hearing loss from fifty years of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.

Paige said that she uses her hearing aids daily to fight her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And for theater fans in the U.K., that’s music to the ears.



References

https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/musicians-hearing-loss.html
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150619-are-you-damaging-your-hearing-without-realising-it

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