Musicians are a special breed. They create incredible sounds that have the power to impact body and soul, whether that’s sending us to the dance floor or moving us to tears. Not too surprisingly, research has also shown that musicians, as a group, have pretty special ears: “better auditory perception, better working memory, and better ability to discriminate speech in noise, than the average non-musician”. It’s like having super powers.
But creating sounds can be risky! Music can be loud, regardless of genre, and musicians’ valuable ears are in the direct line of fire. In fact, as a musician, you are nearly four times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus. If you’re a musician or thinking about being one, you need to protect your hearing – simple – it is your greatest asset.
Got a spare 10 minutes? Listen to a radio interview with Siobhan McGinnity (our PhD student) talking about hearing loss and music.
Some things to think about…
• Earplugs might be your best friend, cheap foam plugs will protect your hearing to some extent but they will interfere with the fidelity of the sound. There are different types of plugs (off the shelf and custom made) as well as different filters you can use. Check out the Hearing Review for everything you need to know about musicians earplugs or visit an audiologist to discuss the best option for you.
• Regular trips to the audiologist are a good idea for musicians to keep track of any deterioration in your hearing: do you need to take more breaks or step up the protection? Lots of music colleges include hearing health and protection as part of their training, for example Vic Deaf’s Hearing Service works with the Victorian College of the Arts and other music training institutes to provide regular check ins with students.
• What’s the bigger picture? Sound Advice from the UK provides some great content for people who are working in the music (and entertainment) industry.
• Apps – take a look at some apps that provide accurate and reliable measures of the volumes you are playing at.
Something else we like: Hear the music – hearing loss prevention for musicians is a free downloadable book that represents more than 20 years of clinical work with musicians in Canada. There’s heaps of information for all different types of musicians – highly recommended!