Music lovers and musicians of every genre can certainly 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 have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it might not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a prevalent problem for musicians who are continually exposed to loud tones and don’t use hearing protection.
Musicians, in fact, are almost four times more likely to suffer from 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 called tinnitus.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise levels well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not surprising. The ability of the nerve cells to send messages from the ears to the brain, as reported by one study, can start to degrade with exposure to noise above 110 dB. Researchers consider this kind of damage to be permanent.
Any kind of music can be loud enough to damage hearing but some styles are more hazardous because they’re inherently loud. And noise-related hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
One musician who deals with tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. Constant and repeated exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have developed over the years, Townshend has used numerous different strategies to deal with the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend chose to play acoustically and shield himself from direct exposure to loud noises by playing behind a glass partition. At a show in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who decided to leave the stage to escape the noise.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also experienced substantial hearing loss due to increased noise levels. The drummer reported that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Looking for a way to reduce the continued deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. This allowed him to hear the music more clearly and at a lower level by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. That prototype eventually became so successful that the band’s sound-man began producing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, along with countless other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few renowned mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss successfully. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to revive her career with a pair of hearing aids.
From stages in London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige suffered considerable hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige revealed that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids daily, she reveals that she can still work without her condition being a problem. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.