Music lovers and musicians of every genre can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. 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. Many musicians learn that without protection, the continuous exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
In fact, one German study revealed that working musicians are about four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than someone working in another field. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
These results are no surprise 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 start to weaken with exposure to noise above 110 dB. Researchers consider this kind of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-induced hearing loss can impact musicians who play all types of music, but individuals who play the loudest tunes usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of many rock musicians.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock group, The Who, is one musician who suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. Over the years, Townshend has managed these problems in several different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend chose to play acoustically and shield himself from direct contact with loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. The noise turned out to be too loud at a 2012 concert and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Substantial hearing loss caused by loud music exposure has also been an issue 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 manage 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 manufacturing them commercially and later sold that company to a national sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also countless other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
But effectively battling hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. And while she may not have Clapton’s worldwide fame or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a set of hearing aids that have helped to revive her career.
From stages in London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Fifty Years of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered substantial hearing loss. Paige shared that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige wears her hearing aids every day, she discloses that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And for theater fans in the U.K., that’s music to the ears.