Music lovers and musicians of all genres can certainly relate to the words of reggae icon Bob Marley. Marley said the following in regards to 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 people enjoying it might not feel any pain. Many musicians find out that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can contribute to hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, one German study revealed that working musicians are almost four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss than somebody working in another industry. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more prominent in those musicians.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise volumes well above 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not unexpected. One study found that levels above 110dB can begin to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. Researchers consider this type of damage to be permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can impact musicians who play all kinds of music, but those who play the loudest music usually run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been countless popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at least, delayed, due to noise-induced hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the well-known British rock band, The Who, is one musician who struggles with partial deafness and tinnitus. Frequent and repeated exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. Over the years, Townshend has handled these problems in a few different ways as his symptoms have progressed.
Townshend shielded himself from loud sound behind a glass shield on the band’s 1989 tour and chose to perform acoustically. The noise proved 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 caused by excessive noise levels. The drummer documented that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and 60 percent in his left.
Looking for a way to reduce the ongoing deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. That earpiece would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) level. The sound-man eventually 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.
Townshend and Van Halen are only two names on a long “who’s who” list of musicians and singers, including Eric Clapton and Sting, to encounter noise-induced hearing problems.
But there’s one singer in the United Kingdom who discovered another way to fight her own battle with hearing loss effectively. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she might not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to resurrect her career with a set of hearing aids.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been stunning audiences for over 50 years from stages throughout London’s West End. Paige suffered considerable hearing loss from fifty years of performing. For years, Paige has admitted to depending on hearing aids.
Because Paige wears her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition getting in the way. And that’s music to the ears of theater fans in the U.K.