Professional musicians at greater risk of developing hearing loss

The sad fact is, once you start feeling symptoms of hearing loss, the damage has already been done. It is often irreversible. Many musicians fall victim to hearing damage, but they can take steps to prevent long-term, permanent hearing loss by scheduling an appointment with an audiologist before you experience symptoms.
Although rock stars are at greater risk for developing hearing loss or tinnitus, they can take certain protective measures to avoid this.

Chris Martin, the lead vocalist for the band Coldplay, has suffered from tinnitus for many years. He says:
“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”

Several other musicians have suffered hearing damage, such as Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams, and more, many of which express regret that they hadn’t done more to give protection to their ears through the course of their careers. Lars Ulrich from Metallica stated: “If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”
Go see an audiologist for advice. He or she can test your hearing and suggest remedies, such as custom ear plugs.

How musicians, and fans, can protect their ears

An audiologist can recommend custom musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will give protection to your hearing without limiting your musical abilities. As a musician, you have unique needs for hearing and hearing protection, and audiologists or hearing specialists are the experts specifically trained to offer you this customized protection.
Many musicians can experience one or more of these symptoms:
Difficulty comprehending speech
Difficulty following discussions in the presence of background noise
A ringing or buzzing noise in the ears
Any pain or discomfort in the ears

Even concert-goers are susceptible to hearing damage. 120 decibels of hair-cell-killing volume is pumping from the loudspeakers right into your ears. Wear ear plugs and take other actions to protect your hearing each and every time.
Louder is not better
To properly show the problem, hearing loss starts with routine exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to calculate loudness). That may well not mean much to you, until you take into account the decibel levels connected with common actions.

In non-technical terms, rock shows are literally ear-splittingly loud, and repeated unprotected exposure can cause some substantial damage, which, sadly, many popular musicians have recently attested to. Check this out:
Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)
Common dialogue at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)
Motorcycle: 100 dB
Front row at a rock show: 120 to 150 dB

Exposure over Time

Over time, extremely loud noise will cause irreversible harm to the hair cells of the inner ear, which are the sensory receptors responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. They can be damaged from repeated overexposure to loud noise. Sadly, you can’t regrow these hair cells.
Popularity, wealth, and screaming fans are all part of the life of a professional musician. In spite of this, a lot of “hearing loss” or “tinnitus” can result from all that fortune and fame. The sad fact is, a musician’s hearing is what is most vulnerable to harm from the performance of their trade.

Take a look at the facts: musicians are four times more likely to acquire noise-induced hearing loss compared with the average individual, says researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. The scientific study also determined that professional musicians are roughly 57% more likely to suffer from tinnitus.

To prevent this from occurring in your own life, take the necessary measures to protect your ears, such as through ear plugs and regular visits t your audiologist.

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