by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist
A recent article about the hearing loss crisis among musicians reports hearing loss as every musician’s worst nightmare and as devastating for a musician as losing a hand. Many professional musicians have permanent hearing problems from not protecting their hearing until after chronic tinnitus or distortion and muffling hearing loss have already started.
Some musicians say they were never told about hearing protection to preserve their hearing health. Others ignore the risk. A recent report by the British Tinnitus Association found over 50% of musicians with tinnitus said it was caused by noise exposure and almost 25% said they never wore hearing protection. But it’s never too late to start using high fidelity hearing protection or in-ear monitors to prevent further damage.
In terms of prevention, in my opinion, we need to reach people at much younger ages about the risk from intense music and audio levels. Every harmful sound exposure counts. People who notice temporary hearing changes or symptoms afterwards are most likely to develop permanent hearing loss and tinnitus with repeated unprotected exposures.
Long before people become professional musicians, children and teens are learning to play instruments, often play in bands or orchestras, go to loud concerts, and progress to music careers. The earlier they start using hearing protection for intense music, the better. Pre-molded musician’s type earplugs cost around $20. More expensive custom molded musician’s earplugs are a good investment. Maybe one day preventive healthcare will even include hearing protection coverage like sunglasses may be covered to protect our vision health.
James Ainscough, chief executive for the charity Help Musicians states, “[m]usicians should care as much for their hearing as they do for their instrument.”
I believe the earlier in life people learn about high intensity music risk, the better budding to professional musicians will care for their hearing health.
Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.