International reggae music icon, Bob Marley, has a quote that has no doubt resonated with musicians and music lovers of every genre. 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 have a detrimental effect on the musicians playing it even though the individuals enjoying it may not feel any pain. Hearing loss is a typical issue for musicians who are constantly exposed to loud tones and fail to use hearing protection.
Musicians, in fact, are nearly four times more likely to deal with noise-related hearing loss than non-musicians as reported by one German study. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
Those results are no surprise for musicians who frequently receive or produce exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB). The ability of the nerve cells to send messages from the ears to the brain, according to one study, can begin 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 kinds of music, but those who play the loudest music typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been lots of notable rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers derailed, or at a minimum, delayed, as a result 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 recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing issues. Over the years, Townshend has addressed these issues 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 standing behind a glass partition. At a concert in 2012, the volume proved to be too loud for the guitarist, who decided to leave the stage to get away from the noise.
Considerable hearing loss as a result of loud music exposure has also been a problem for Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen. As reported by Van Halen himself, the drummer lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and, in his right he lost 30 percent.
Searching 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 earpiece. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which let him hear the music at a lower (and clearer) volume. The sound-man eventually was so successful with this prototype that he started to manufacture and sell the design and ended up selling the patent to a major tech company for 34 million dollars.
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-related hearing loss.
But effectively fighting hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. Her career may not be as well known as Clapton and she may not have record sales like Sting, she has been able to resurrect her career by using a pair of hearing aids.
English musical theater dynamo, Elaine Paige, has been stunning audiences for more than 50 years from stages in London’s West End. Paige experienced substantial hearing loss from five decades of performing. Paige revealed that she has been depending on hearing aids for years.
Paige said that she uses her hearing aids every day to combat her hearing loss and insists that her condition has no bearing on her ability to work. And that’s good news to theater fans in the U.K.