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The glory of the stage can be overshadowed by hearing loss and tinnitus: not very glamorous side effects of being a rock star. Let’s break it down: the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology says musicians are four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss contrasted with the average individual. Also, professional musicians are about 57% more likely to experience tinnitus — a disorder connected with a persistent ringing in the ears.

Even though every musician loves the celebrity, wealth, and screaming fans, they don’t often bargain for the “hearing loss” or “tinnitus.” These are the less than stellar side-effects of all that glory, money, and screaming. The unfortunate irony is, a musician’s hearing is just what is most sensitive to damage from the performance of their art.

Check out what Chris Martin, the lead vocalist for the band Coldplay, has to say. He suffered with tinnitus for many years:
“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”

Deafening Noise on a Regular Basis

The hair cells can be wiped out from frequent overexposure to loud noise – the significant difference, of course, being that you can’t grow brand new hair cells. To blame for hearing loss is the recurring subjection to deafening noise. Unfortunately, very loud noise will irreparably cause harm to the hair cells of the inner ear. These are the sensory receptors responsible for transferring sound to the brain.

Some Advice from the Stars

Lars Ulrich from Metallica has this tidbit of advice:
“If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams: these famous rock stars all have hearing. They all regret that they hadn’t done more to protect their ears during the course of their careers.

Are you a musician? Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist who can prescribe custom made musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will give protection to your hearing – all without compromising your musical abilities. As a musician, you have distinctive needs for hearing and hearing protection. Make your hearing last as long as you can with the right protection.

How musicians, and fans, can protect their ears

Have you experienced one or more of these symptoms?
A ringing or buzzing sound in the ears
Any pain or discomfort in the ears
Difficulty understanding speech
Difficulty following discussions in the presence of background noise

If so, you can take protective measures for your ear to cut down on this risk. Because of the specialized requirements of musicians — and the significance of protecting the fine details of sound — the first step is to schedule an appointment with an hearing specialist.

When you experience the above symptoms, the damage has already been done. Therefore, the best thing a musician can do to deter long-term, permanent hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist before symptoms are present.
Interestingly, concert-goers are just as susceptible. So the next time you’re front row at a rock show, realize that 120 decibels of that crazy volume is pumping straight from the speakers right into your ears.

Just how loud are rock concerts?

Did you know that hearing loss begins with routine exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to measure loudness)? That might not be a big deal to you, but look at the decibel levels correlated with common actions:
Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)
Regular dialogue at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)
Motorcycle: 100 dB
Front row at a rock concert: 120 to 150 dB

Take advice from many musicians in the field and do what you can to get checked out for hearing loss.