International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly 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.”
While physical pain may not come with the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it. Many musicians discover that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are up to four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than non-musicians as reported by one German study. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
For musicians who are frequently exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings aren’t unexpected. The ability of the nerve cells to deliver messages from the ears to the brain, as reported by one study, can begin to weaken with exposure to sound above 110 dB. This damage is normally permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but individuals who play the loudest music usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative impact on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock band, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing issues come from constant and repeated exposure to loud music. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has utilized numerous different methods to deal with the problem.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and decided to play acoustically. At a show in 2012, the volume turned out to be too loud for the guitarist, who chose to leave the stage to get away from the noise.
Significant hearing loss due to loud music exposure has also been a problem for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, in his right he lost 30 percent.
Van Halen consulted with his soundman about a custom-fitted in-ear monitor as he searched for ways to address his worsening hearing loss. This allowed him to hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he began to produce and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few noteworthy mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-related hearing loss.
But effectively fighting hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to resurrect her career with a pair of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been thrilling audiences for over 50 years. Paige experienced significant hearing loss from fifty years of performing. Paige disclosed that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige wears her hearing aids daily, she reveals that she can still work without her condition getting in the way. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.