Music lovers and musicians of every genre can no doubt relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the people enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a prevalent issue for musicians who are continually exposed to loud tones and fail to use hearing protection.
In fact, one German study discovered that working musicians are about four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more pronounced in those musicians.
These results are no surprise for musicians who frequently produce or receive exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes higher than 110dB can begin to impact nerve cells, degrading the ability to send electrical signals to the brain from the ears. Researchers consider this type of damage to be permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but individuals who play the loudest tunes usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
One musician who struggles with 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 problems. As his symptoms have developed over the years, Townshend has used numerous different methods to manage the issue.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and chose to play acoustically. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist decided to leave the stage.
Substantial hearing loss due to loud music exposure has also been a problem for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer revealed that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Searching for a way to curtail the ongoing degeneration 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 let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man ultimately was so successful with this prototype that he began to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Townshend and Van Halen are just two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to experience noise-induced hearing difficulties.
But successfully battling hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. And while she might not have Clapton’s worldwide name recognition or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a pair of hearing aids that have helped to revive her career.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years from stages in London’s West End. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered considerable hearing loss. Paige shared that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids every day to combat her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.