Music lovers and musicians of every genre can undoubtedly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following in regards to the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a common problem for musicians who are constantly 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 struggle with noise-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another profession. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience consistent ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.
For musicians who are frequently exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not unexpected. The ability of the nerve cells to send signals to the brain from the ears, as reported by one study, can begin to weaken with exposure to sound above 110 dB. This damage is generally irreversible.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but individuals who play the loudest tunes generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been many popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at a minimum, delayed, as a result of noise-related hearing loss.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Frequent and repeated exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has used numerous different methods to deal with the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend chose to play acoustically and protect himself from direct exposure to loud noises by standing behind a glass partition. The noise proved to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Considerable hearing loss caused by 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 reduce the continued deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. This allowed him to hear the music more clearly and at a lower volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man began manufacturing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also countless other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But effectively combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. And while she may not have Clapton’s worldwide fame or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a pair of hearing aids that have helped to revive her career.
From stages in London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been thrilling audiences for over 50 years. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered significant hearing loss. Paige disclosed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids daily to combat 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.