Music lovers and musicians of every genre can undoubtedly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Music has been known to take a toll on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Many musicians learn that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are almost four times more likely to deal with noise-induced hearing loss than non-musicians according to one German study. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
Those results are not surprising for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dB). The ability of the nerve cells to send messages to the brain from the ears, as reported by one study, can begin to weaken with exposure to noise above 110 dB. This damage is normally irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but those who play the loudest tunes 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.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Constant and repeated exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. Over the years, Townshend has addressed these problems in several different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and chose to perform acoustically. The noise turned out to be too loud at a 2012 show and the guitarist decided to leave the stage.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also experienced significant hearing loss as a result of excessive noise levels. According to Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
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 volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
Townshend and Van Halen are just two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to encounter noise-induced hearing difficulties.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who found another way to fight her own bout with hearing loss successfully. And while she may not have Clapton’s international fame or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a pair of hearing aids that have helped to revive her career.
English musical theater powerhouse, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Paige suffered significant hearing loss from fifty years of performing. Paige shared that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she wears her hearing aids daily to combat her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.