International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has undoubtedly resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. Marley said the following regarding the power of music: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
While physical pain may not come with the music enjoyed by adoring audiences, it’s been known to have a negative impact on those playing it. Many musicians discover that without protection, the constant exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
In fact, one German study discovered that working musicians are nearly four times more likely to suffer from noise-related hearing loss than somebody working in another profession. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also 57 percent more pronounced in those musicians.
Those results are not surprising for musicians who frequently produce or receive exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). One study found that volumes above 110dB can begin to affect nerve cells, corrupting the ability to deliver electrical signals to the brain from the ears. This damage is generally irreversible.
Any type of music can be loud enough to damage the ears but some styles are more hazardous because they’re inherently loud. And there have been many notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at a minimum, delayed, because of noise-related hearing loss.
Pete Townshend of the legendary British rock band, The Who, is one musician who deals with partial deafness and tinnitus. Constant and repeated exposure to loud music is most likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have advanced over the years, Townshend has utilized numerous different approaches to deal with the issue.
Townshend protected himself from loud sound behind a glass partition on the band’s 1989 tour and decided 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 significant hearing loss due to excessive noise volumes. 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 continued deterioration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted earpiece. 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 ultimately became so successful that the band’s sound-man began manufacturing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
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 difficulties.
But effectively fighting hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career might not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have the record sales that Sting does, she has been able to resurrect her career by using a pair of hearing aids.
From stages throughout London’s West End, English musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for more than 50 years. Paige experienced extensive 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 combat her hearing loss and insists 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.