Music lovers and musicians of all genres can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. In talking about the power of music, the Jamaican-born Marley said: “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 might not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a common issue for musicians who are continually 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-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
Those results are no surprise for musicians who frequently produce or receive exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB). One study found that levels above 110dB can begin to affect nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is generally irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can affect musicians who play all kinds of music, but individuals who play the loudest tunes typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been countless popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at a minimum, delayed, because of noise-related hearing loss.
One musician who deals with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have advanced over the years, Townshend has utilized several different approaches to manage the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend decided to play acoustically and protect himself from direct exposure to loud noises by standing behind a glass partition. The noise turned out to be too loud at a 2012 show and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Significant hearing loss due to loud music exposure has also been a problem for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 60 percent in his left.
Van Halen consulted with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to address his worsening hearing loss. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man ultimately 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.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But successfully combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has accomplished. And while she may not have Clapton’s international name recognition or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a pair of hearing aids that have helped to resurrect her career.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Paige experienced considerable hearing loss from fifty years of performing. Paige revealed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.