Music is pervasive, emotionally expressive, a culturally significant phenomenon that helps regulate mood and foster social cohesiveness (Gfeller 2013). Our ears allow us to hear and enjoy music, help us to stay in touch with friends and family, warn us of danger and allow us to participate in life. Musicians can experience hearing issues, just like anyone else and the effect of hearing problems for a musician can be profound.
One study of musicians, by the Association of British Orchestras, revealed that 24% experienced tinnitus, 25% experienced hyperacusis, 12% experienced distortion in their hearing, and 5% experienced diplacusis in one of its forms. Of course, many of these musicians experienced two or more of the above symptoms at the same time.
If you are affected by hearing problems, try not to worry, our clinical audiologists are experienced in the specific needs of the entertainment industry, so if you have concerns about your hearing or how to preserve it please give us a call or e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re here to help.
NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS (NIHL)
Any sound, including music, if it’s loud enough, can cause irreversible hearing loss. The World Health Organisation report that NIHL is the most common, permanent and preventable occupational injury in the world.
Often when we have been exposed to loud music the hearing is dulled and there may be a ringing in the ears. This is called temporary threshold shift and our hearing will often recover after 24 – 48 hours. However, take this as a warning that whatever you were doing was too loud and you may have been risking hearing loss. Evidence shows that the temporary effect can become permanent with repeated exposure. The only way to prevent noise induced hearing loss is to protect your hearing or keep the volume down. Talk to us about how you can protect your hearing.
Another hearing issue that can result from over-exposure to loud music is hyperacusis. This is a sensitivity to loud sounds, which in extreme cases can be painful. This is disastrous for a musician or a DJ because many loud sounds, including everyday sounds like a siren or a journey on the underground, can be very uncomfortable. If you are living with hyperacusis it may be tempting to overuse earplugs so that everyday sounds are not uncomfortable. However, this often serves to decrease your tolerance further so should be avoided. A structured programme of desensitization can help, but this should be under the guidance of a hearing therapist or audiologist.
Have you ever finished a concert or left a nightclub and heard a ringing, whistling or hissing noise in your ears. This is known as tinnitus. The sound can range from very quiet background noise to a disturbing louder noise. It can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. It is often worse when there is no other noise around you, so you may be more aware of it at night, when you’re trying to fall asleep or in a quiet room. It will usually go away after a day or so but sometimes, particularly if you are often in loud noise, it may not. If you are affected by tinnitus you should seek the advice of a medical practitioner. Our hearing therapist also offers a range of strategies and tactics to help you live with your tinnitus and get on with life.
Diplacusis is a disconcerting condition, especially for musicians, because you hear the same note at two different pitches—often at the correct pitch in one ear and either higher (sharp) or lower (flat) in the other ear. This can be devastating to a musician who has previously had perfect pitch.
Diplacusis occurs when your ears have a significant difference in frequency selectivity. This results in clashing interpretations (dissonance) of the tones you hear. Musicians, however, because of their musical training, may be considerably more sensitive to these slight pitch differences. As a result, they may be aware of, and bothered by, smaller pitch differences than even a semi-tone.