As a professional musician, I have been involved in many a discussion with friends and colleagues about the issue of noise induced hearing loss.
For one, people simply don’t consider that it could happen to them. Another reason is the belief that earplugs distort sound, giving musicians a rather unpleasant experience.
But the big problem is that when noise-induced hearing loss occurs, it is often too late, irreversible and, if a significant loss, can be life-altering.
I believe this lack of education to be the biggest contributing factor in musicians’ seeming apathy towards their hearing health.
Another reason is the belief that earplugs distort sound, giving musicians a rather unpleasant experience. While such distortion occurs from standard foam or wax earplugs, a range of specialist attenuated musicians’ earplugs are available for a cheap price (sometimes as little as £10) online and in high street music shops. Of course, bespoke products can also be purchased from independent providers as well as places such as Specsavers. However, Help Musicians UK is currently offering the Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme to encourage professionals in the occupation to take better care of their hearing. The scheme costs just £40 (or £30 for MU members), and comes with over £200 worth of benefits, including a specialist hearing assessment and, crucially, custom-made hearing protection. This is an excellent scheme and one which I encourage all UK-based professional musicians to join.
Disappointingly, during my three years at university, only one session was dedicated to this important topic, and I know that other universities and conservatoires aren’t much better despite many students being exposed to dangerously high noise levels – sometimes in excess of 100dB – for several hours a day.
Education is the most powerful tool, which is why I will continue to strive to improve awareness about sound levels and hearing protection in the profession.
Read more: 10 Tips to Protect Your Hearing
Will you join me?