Musicians & Hearing Loss

Musicians & Hearing Loss

Professional musicians know how valuable their hearing is, yet the very music they make poses a consistent threat to their hearing. A new German study found that musicians are four times more likely to experience noise-induced hearing loss than the general population.

Hearing loss can be a setback for anybody, let alone a musician. Noise-induced hearing loss causes permanent, irreversible damage to the auditory system. Here are some prominent musicians who are currently dealing with their own hearing issues.

Famous Musicians Who Experience Hearing Loss 

Neil Young: Neil Young released over thirty albums with much recognition and success throughout his long career. The artist has also been very open about his hearing loss and tinnitus, which he claims to be the direct result of playing music in his early days.

Eric Clapton: Eric Clapton and his band Cream have had their fair share of noisy shows. For the famous guitarist and singer, the excessive decibels and time on stage meant that he later developed tinnitus.

Phil Collins: The legendary singer of the rock band Genesis retired in 2011because of a loss of hearing in his left ear. He did eventually return to music but focused strictly on composing. 

Grimes: Grimes has always listened to music loudly. At festivals and events, she would stand right next to the speaker when listening to music. Many years ago, hearing problems caused Grimes to delay and cancel several tour appearances as the young star coped with hearing difficulties.

Classical Musicians and Hearing Loss 

It might surprise you that rock stars aren’t the only ones who suffer hearing loss – classical musicians are also at risk. A recent study evaluated members of one of Norway’s largest orchestras and found that 43 percent of the orchestra’s musicians experienced hearing loss! Not only that, but more than 75% of the musicians also suffered from tinnitus.

While classical music may not be thought of as loud, that’s not necessarily the case. For these skilled musicians, the symphony unfolding before you in the concert hall is only the final step. You can hear from the back of the balcony the softest noises, so imagine those sounds roaring next to your ear! Musicians practice for several hours each day, often with noise levels of more than 85dB.

Violins, flutes, horns, and many percussion instruments can easily hit 100dB alone. But the risk comes not only from your own instrument but from those around you as well. From violas to double bass, the combined noise on stage can sometimes seem deafening. Imagine sitting with high flutes and blaring trumpets in front of the woodwind or brass sections, and it’s no surprise that many classical musicians lose their hearing. 

How can musicians protect themselves?

Many people believe if the sounds they hear are not overly loud, that they are not at risk for hearing loss. That is simply false. Any noise over 85 dB can cause hearing loss, and even lower levels can result in loss of hearing if sustained for long periods, as proven by the example of classical musicians.

Numerous apps use the microphones of smartphones to display the dB of your environment. If your instrument is too loud, remember to use hearing protection even when you are practicing.

Remember that your phone’s microphone needs to be about the same distance from the sound source as your ear to get a precise assessment of what level of dB reaches your ear. For instance, if you’re curious about how loud your viola is when you’re playing it, putting your phone on the table to get a reading isn’t a precise measure of what’s coming into your ear, right next to the viola. The closer you are to your ear, the louder that sound is, and the more likely it is that you will need to protect yourself. 

UpState Hearing Instruments

If you have experienced a change in your hearing, it is important to get a hearing test. Come and see us at UpState Hearing Instruments. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and will do all we can to help you get back to playing the music you love.

Kenneth H. Wood, BC-HIS
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