It's a common fact that rock legends of the 70s and 80s have suffered irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus.
Hearing loss has affected over 48 million Americans
With some, it comes with the aging process, and with others, it's the exposure to loud noise, loud video games, television, movies, car stereos, headphones, noisy machinery, screaming stadium crowds, nightclub music, loud music concerts and more. Most of these risks can be avoided. Depending on your hobbies or career, the challenge of protecting your hearing can be difficult.
Tinnitus and hearing loss are quite common in the music industry
Many musicians and singers have been performing for over forty years and have recently been speaking out and going public on hearing education and awareness. After years of loud noise exposure throughout their careers, artist Pete Townshend of The Who, Sting, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Jeff Beck, Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Ted Nugent, Alex Van Halen and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, among others, are now talking about their hearing loss challenges and experiences, and how to protect and avoid the damage.
It's important for the fans to protect their ears as well. Lars of Metallica has suffered from tinnitus throughout his entire music career and has spoken out publically to his music fans about the importance of getting a hearing check. Alex Van Halen had lost 60% hearing in his left ear and 30% in his right. AC/DC had to cancel half their tour in 2016 due to singer Brian Johnson's risk of complete hearing loss. He has endured nine operations on his ears. Huey Lewis cancelled his remaining 2018 tour dates due to losing most of his hearing suddenly. He was diagnosed with Meniere's disease-- an inner ear disorder which can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. Sting, singer of The Police, has suffered hearing loss and tinnitus and became an advocate for hearing loss awareness and a supporter/ambassador for Hear the World Foundation, a foundation which provides children with untreated hearing loss audiological care in low income countries.
The most common hearing damage for musicians is Tinnitus-- a constant ringing in the ear when there's actually no sound present
There is no cure for tinnitus other than masking out the sound with background music or television. Pete Townshend of the Who has hearing loss and tinnitus in both ears which led him to help fund a non-profit hearing advocacy group called H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers). After every performance his tinnitus resurfaces, which has resulted in his inability to hear high frequencies. Now he relies on computer systems and engineers to help him in the recording studio.
What is considered safe noise
According to Dr. Carol Rousseau, a clinical audiologist, she states, "The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers a safe noise dose to be 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours a day, but for every 3-dB increase, that time period is cut in half. The loudness levels at an AC/DC concert can range from 105 to 130dB. At 105 DB, damage can occur after only about fifteen minutes of exposure. Danger to the inner ear can occur instantaneous at 120 dBs", Hyperacusis (an increased sensitivity to volume) and Diplacusis (difficulties in pitch perception) are two conditions that can result from prolonged exposure to loud volumes of music, making it more difficult and challenging for musicians and singer to perform.
How to protect your hearing
There are ways to help avoid hearing loss damage and to protect you from loud noise and music.
- Avoid excessively loud noise for prolonged periods at a time
- Always wear ear plugs when exposed to high volumes of noise and loud music, whether or not you already suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus
- Consider location proximity to speakers when choosing a spot at a concert or loud nightclub
- Give yourself a 24 hour rest after loud noise exposure
- Have your hearing tested
- Remove ear wax
Long term damage of hearing loss is irreversible.
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