Music lovers and musicians of every genre can no doubt 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 might not feel any pain. Many musicians discover that without protection, the continuous exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
In fact, one German study found that working musicians are about four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another profession. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to have consistent ringing in their ears, also called tinnitus.
These results are no surprise for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels (dB). One study revealed that levels louder than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is usually permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all kinds of music, but individuals who play the loudest music generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been countless notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at least, delayed, as a result of noise-induced hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the legendary British rock group, The Who, is one musician who suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus. The common opinion is that Townshend’s hearing issues are the result of constant and repeated exposure to loud music. Over the years, Townshend has handled these problems in several different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend opted to play acoustically and shield himself from direct contact with loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. The noise turned out to be too much at a 2012 concert and the guitarist chose to leave the stage.
Substantial hearing loss as a result of loud music exposure has also been an issue for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. The drummer revealed that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Searching for a way to reduce the continued degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which allowed him to hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man began producing them commercially and later sold that company to a national sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also many other musicians, including Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-related hearing loss.
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 might not have Clapton’s international fame or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a set of hearing aids that have helped to resurrect her career.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Paige experienced extensive hearing loss from fifty years of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to depending on hearing aids.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.