Music lovers and musicians of all genres can no doubt 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 individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians find out that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are almost four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss than non-musicians as reported by one German study. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise volumes well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings aren’t unexpected. One study revealed that volumes louder than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals to the brain from the ears. This damage is usually permanent.
Noise-related hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but individuals who play the loudest music typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative impact on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing problems are the result of constant and repetitive exposure to loud music. As his symptoms have advanced over the years, Townshend has used several different approaches to deal with the problem.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. At a concert in 2012, the volume proved to be too much for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to get away from the noise.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also experienced substantial hearing loss due to increased noise volumes. The drummer revealed that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 60 percent in his left.
Looking for a way to curtail the ongoing degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. 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 manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Townshend and Van Halen are just two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to encounter noise-induced hearing issues.
But successfully fighting hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career by using a set of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Paige suffered significant hearing loss from five decades of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.
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.