Noise exposure for musicians, plant workers, and others in loud environments can be harmful. Go to any factory floor, machinist shop, food processing plant, or airport tarmac. You’ll see workers sporting significant hearing protection to shelter their ears from excess noise. The chance of seeing hearing protection is much less, however, when you watch musicians at work. This is despite the fact that their job puts them at very high risk for hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss in musicians is a double blow, with the added risk of limiting their ability to do the job they love.
Luckily, through education and outreach, paired with the latest technology in sound protection, more and more of the music industry is waking up to the reality of noise-induced hearing loss. Ongoing efforts can hopefully make hearing protection more commonplace and help musicians keep their vital sense of hearing.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Much of our hearing ability depends on sensory cells that are located in the cochlea of the inner ear. These hair cells pick up the vibrations of sound waves in the air. Sound waves of different frequencies vibrate and activate different hair cells. This, in turn, sends an electric signal to the brain that then processes meaning from the incoming sound.
Hair cells are incredible and also extremely delicate. The hair cells that we are born with are the only hair cells we will ever have. They cannot repair themselves or make new hair cells if they experience damage. Hair cells do have the elasticity to stand up to a broad range of sound volumes. However, exposure to loud noises can stress and damage the hair cells beyond repair. Once a hair cell has damage, we lose that part of our hearing.
Over the course of our lifetime, noise-induced hearing damage builds as more and more hair cells are unable to function. This adds up and ultimately becomes a noise-induced hearing loss. This is permanent damage that cannot be reversed.
When we think of hazardous noise, we often think of sounds that are jolting like sirens, machinery, even the booming of fireworks. But sometimes, hazardous noise is a sound we enjoy. The issue lies in the sound coming to us at a volume that is too loud. Music is a great example of this. Earbuds and headphones can send our favorite songs straight to our ear canal. Unfortunately, this is often at decibel levels that cause permanent damage. The average rock concert hosts volumes of 105 decibels. That level of sound can result in lasting hearing damage after only 10 minutes of unprotected exposure.
Even the beautiful sounds of classical music can harm our sensitive hearing if played too loudly. Orchestra musicians run the risk of dangerous noise levels, and hearing damage that can affect their livelihood. In a recent legal case in the United Kingdom, a concert violinist won the right to sue his symphony for work-related hearing damage, a constant hazard that the music industry has not had to address before.
Musicians often face exposure to high noise levels. Not only as they perform, but as they practice as well. With amplification in tight practice spaces or studios, hearing loss can go hand in hand with perfecting a musician’s talent.
Protect Your Hearing
Protecting your hearing is key to keeping it. If you’re a musician, this can be tricky. Often, musicians say that hearing protection muffles the sounds they need to hear to perform with others. However, hearing protection doesn’t have to be a Catch-22. Rather, new advancements have come into play in hearing protection for musicians. Earplugs are now designed with the musician in mind. They use digital technology to limit noise exposure. Some protective plugs can dampen very loud sounds while allowing other sounds to come through without dampening. Also, the latest earplugs can digitally adjust the level of hearing protection they provide, based on the level of the surrounding noise. There are so many options that both protect your ears yet deliver a safe experience while listening to music.
Want to take action to protect your hearing? Hearing Group can help. We offer personal care and testing, as well as a full selection of top hearing products. We can help you take care of your hearing in a way that fits your lifestyle.
If you do experience noise-related hearing loss, we can help. While permanent hearing damage can?t be restored, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids. Modern hearing aids offer custom programming that amplifies sound where it is needed most. This preserves a rich soundscape and a fuller sound palette. Want to take the next step? Contact us today to connect with hearing health!