International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has certainly resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. 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 take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians discover that without protection, the continuous exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, one German study discovered that working musicians are almost four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another field. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have constant ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise levels higher than 85 decibels (dB), these findings aren’t unexpected. The ability of the nerve cells to send signals to the brain from the ears, as reported by one study, can start to weaken with exposure to sound above 110 dB. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Any kind of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are more hazardous because they are inherently loud. And there have been many notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at least, delayed, due to noise-related hearing loss.
One musician who deals with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. The common opinion is that Townshend’s hearing issues result from continuous and repetitive exposure to loud music. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has utilized numerous different approaches to deal with the issue.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to perform acoustically. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Significant hearing loss due to loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent hearing in his left ear and, in his right he lost 30 percent.
Van Halen spoke with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he looked 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) volume. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man started manufacturing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
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 problems.
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 resurrect her career by using a pair of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been thrilling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige experienced extensive hearing loss from fifty years of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to relying on hearing aids.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition getting in the way. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.