International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has no doubt resonated with musicians and music lovers of all genres. 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 contribute to hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, one German study found that working musicians are about four times more likely to grapple with noise-induced hearing loss than someone working in another profession. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise volumes higher than 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not surprising. The ability of the nerve cells to deliver messages from the ears to the brain, according to one study, can start to degrade with exposure to sound above 110 dB. Researchers consider this type of damage to be irreversible.
Noise-related hearing loss can impact musicians who play all styles of music, but musicians who play the loudest tunes generally run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And noise-induced hearing loss has had a negative effect on the careers of lots of rock musicians.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock group The Who. The common belief is that Townshend’s hearing issues are the result of continuous and repetitive exposure to loud music. Over the years, Townshend has handled these issues in a few different ways as his symptoms have advanced.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and opted to play acoustically. The noise turned out to be too loud at a 2012 concert and the guitarist decided to leave the stage.
Another hard rocker, Alex Van Halen of the band Van Halen, also experienced substantial hearing loss as a result of increased noise volumes. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, 30 percent in his right.
Looking for a way to curtail 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 volume by connecting wirelessly to the soundboard. The sound-man ultimately was so successful with this prototype that he started 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 Sting and Eric Clapton, are but a few notable mentions on the long list of famous musicians to experience noise-induced hearing loss.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own bout with hearing loss effectively. 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 by using a set of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige experienced significant hearing loss from fifty years of performing. Paige revealed that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she wears her hearing aids daily to fight her hearing loss and asserts that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And for theater fans in the U.K., that’s music to the ears.