International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. 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 might not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a prevalent issue for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and fail to use hearing protection.
In fact, one German study revealed that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to struggle with noise-related hearing loss than someone working in another field. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have consistent ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
These results are not surprising for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). The ability of the nerve cells to deliver messages from the ears to the brain, according to one study, can begin to degrade with exposure to noise above 110 dB. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can impact musicians who play all types of music, but musicians who play the loudest tunes generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. The common opinion is that Townshend’s hearing issues come from constant and repeated exposure to loud music. As his symptoms have developed over the years, Townshend has utilized several different methods to manage the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend opted to play acoustically and shield himself from direct exposure to loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. At a show in 2012, the volume turned out to be too loud for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also dealt with substantial hearing loss caused by increased noise levels. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Van Halen consulted with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to address his worsening hearing loss. 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 started producing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with countless other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few noteworthy mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
But effectively 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 the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career with a set of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Five decades of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered substantial hearing loss. Paige shared that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she discloses that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.