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.”
While physical pain might not accompany the music received by adoring audiences, it’s been known to have a negative impact on those playing it. Many musicians learn that without protection, the continuous exposure to loud tones can play a role in hearing loss.
Musicians, in fact, are almost four times more likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss than non-musicians according to one German study. Those same musicians are also 57 percent more likely to experience constant ringing in their ears, also known as tinnitus.
For musicians who are regularly exposed to noise volumes higher than 85 decibels (dB), these findings are not surprising. One study revealed that volumes louder than 110dB can start to impact nerve cells, corrupting the ability to send electrical signals from the ears to the brain. This damage is usually permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can affect musicians who play all styles of music, but musicians who play the loudest music typically run the greatest risk for hearing loss. And there have been lots of noteworthy rock ‘n’ roll musicians to have their careers shortened, or at a minimum, delayed, because of noise-related hearing loss.
One musician who suffers from tinnitus and partial deafness is Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who. Constant and recurring exposure to loud music is more than likely the cause of Townshend’s hearing problems. As his symptoms have progressed over the years, Townshend has utilized numerous different methods to deal with the issue.
On the band’s 1989 tour, Townshend chose to play acoustically and protect himself from direct contact with loud noises by standing behind a glass partition. The noise proved to be too much 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 caused by excessive noise levels. The drummer revealed that he lost 30 percent of his hearing in his right ear and in his left he lost 60 percent.
Looking for a way to curtail the ongoing degeneration of his ability to hear, Van Halen consulted with the band’s soundman on a custom-fitted in-ear monitor. That in-ear monitor would connect wirelessly to the band’s soundboard, which allowed him to hear the music at a lower (and clearer) volume. That prototype subsequently became so successful that the band’s sound-man began producing them commercially and later sold that company to a major sound and video technology outfit for $34 million.
Van Halen, Townshend, and also many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Sting, are but a few noteworthy mentions on the long list of famous musicians to suffer from noise-related hearing loss.
But successfully combating hearing loss is something one singer in the United Kingdom has achieved. And while she may not have Clapton’s worldwide name recognition or Sting’s history of record sales, she does have a set of hearing aids that have helped to revive her career.
From stages in London’s West End, British musical theater performer, Elaine Paige, has been dazzling audiences for over 50 years. Five decades of performing damaged Paige’s hearing to the point she suffered substantial hearing loss. Paige disclosed that she has been relying on hearing aids for years.
Because Paige uses her hearing aids every day, she reveals that she can still work without her condition getting in the way. And for theater fans in the U.K., that’s music to the ears.