Music lovers and musicians of all genres can undoubtedly 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 might not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a common problem for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and fail to use hearing protection.
Actually, one German study revealed that working musicians are almost four times more likely to struggle with noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
These results are not surprising for musicians who regularly receive or produce exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes higher than 110dB can start to affect nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Any type of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are more hazardous because they’re inherently loud. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of countless rock musicians.
One musician who struggles with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has used several different methods to manage the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend opted to play acoustically and protect himself from direct contact with loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who decided to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Significant hearing loss as a result of loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer reported that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Looking for a way to reduce the continued degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. This let him hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few noteworthy mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But successfully fighting hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to revive her career by using a set of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige suffered significant hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige disclosed that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids daily to fight her hearing loss and insists 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.