Listening to music is a pastime enjoyed by many. From classical to rock, to jazz and everything in between, 9 out of 10 Australians listen to music every week. However, hearing loss affects 1 in 6 people in Australia, with sensorineural being the most common form1. Experts claim that 37% of those reported are caused by repeated exposure to loud noises, and can in fact be preventable to begin with.
Although procedures can be put into place to avoid cognitive deprivation when listening to music, just what can be done for musicians who are exposed to loud noises on a daily basis?
Below we explore whether musicians really are at a higher risk for hearing loss.
Health and safety is one of the most common practises enforced in the workplace, bringing connotations of safe lifting and high vis equipment, but did you know that health and safety covers hearing, too?
According to Safework NSW, in the past four years, noise-related injuries have affected more than 10,000 employees, with 90 per cent left with permanent hearing loss, in NSW workplaces2.
Official guidelines state that noise levels should not exceed exposure levels of 85 decibels (dB) over a period of eight hours and that noise levels should not surpass 140 dB at any point of the day, to prevent harming hearing abilities2
Furthermore, workplaces should try and keep noise levels below 70 dB if the work routine is fast-paced and demands attentiveness. So, with these uniform checks in place, how do musicians adhere to these rules? Or are they simply unavoidable?
Although rock musicians and their concerts can reach decibel levels between 120 – 129, it's not just fast-paced, grungy sounds that can be harmful to those playing in a band, classical musicians are also at risk3. On average, a classical musician in an orchestra can be exposed to increased levels of noise for five to six hours daily, with sounds reaching up to 95dB. This is a 10dB increase of the recommended guideline, making musicians more prone to hearing loss4.
You're not alone
Although we are aware of how many Australians live with hearing loss, did you know that some of the world's most popular musicians also have a variety of cognitive deprivations?
Neil Young lives with tinnitus and actually created the album 'Harvest Moon' for softer sounds to help with the condition.
World renowned rock and blues guitarist Eric Clapton is now partially deaf in one ear due to his loud concerts and lack of precautions when playing.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin has dealt with tinnitus for nearly ten years, explaining that severe headaches are a result of this condition. However, since wearing earplugs, his tinnitus hasn't worsened, which brings us to our next point.
What can you do to help?
Unfortunately, musicians don't have much choice when it comes to being exposed to loud noises for prolonged periods of times, as it is what their profession entails. However, steps can be taken to help prevent hearing loss.
'As musicians, if we can separate our loud, bring-down-the-house music and intersperse it with softer music in rehearsals, we can give our ears a rest.' explains Dr Ross Tonini, an audiologist at Baylor College.
However, if you are a member of a hard-core heavy metal band, this may be slightly unavoidable. A more realistic option for all musicians, comes in the form of specially designed ear plugs for those in bands or orchestras. 'These ear plugs filter sound so that musicians are able to hear their music without damage' said Tonini. 'They protect their ears and make the music a little softer so that they can get their ears out of that danger zone, down to a level that is safer for their ears.'
If you are a musician worried about your own hearing or that of someone else, a great step is to seek the help of the experts at AudioClinic. Give our friendly team a call on 1800 940 984 or click here to book your *no cost hearing test.
1Hearnet, The Facts On Hearing Loss. Accessed July 2017
2Safework NSW, Noise. Accessed July 2017
3WebMD, Harmful Noise Levels – Topic Overview. Accessed July 2017
4Hear-it, Classical musicians at extreme risk for hearing loss. Accessed July 2017