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Industrial deafness » Musicians and deafness


Musicians are regularly exposed to loud noises and vibrations, especially in concert halls and at performances with large audiences where the sound output is amplified at a higher level. If a musician is placed near drums on a regular basis on a concert tour, for example, they may find that after a while their ears are painful and ringing.

The most well-known case of a musician who suffered from industrial deafness is rock musician Pete Townshend, who experienced hearing loss and tinnitus after continuous exposure to extremely loud concert noise.

Exposure to any type of music will cause hearing loss over time, but professional musicians suffer the worst due to the frequency of exposure. And then there are the emotional repercussions - a musician who cant hear not only loses his livelihood but also one of his greatest sources of pleasure and talent.

Hearing loss is caused by damage to fragile tissue strands within the cochlea.

Classical musicians may be at more risk

Its generally acknowledged that rock musicians experience massive waves of sound, but classical musicians - particularly those in orchestras - also experience high noise exposure.

According to otolaryngolist Ken Einhorn, up to 52 % of classical musicians and 30 % of rock musicians will suffer from music-induced hearing loss through work-related situations. A 1981 study at Swedens Lyric Theatre concert hall in Gothenberg revealed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians (42 %) had hearing losses greater than expected for their age.

Sound levels at concerts can range from 120 to 140db, well beyond the 100db normally recognised as the threshold at which exposure causes hearing loss. Intensity is measured in decibels (db), and as it moves up the scale it deepens. This means that 90db is 10 times more intense than 80db; 100db is 100 times more intense than 80db. The sound intensity doubles for every increase of 3db.

  • Whisper - 20db
  • Conversation - 60db
  • Vacuum clean - 80db
  • Orchestral music - 83-92db
  • Rock music - 105-111db
  • Jet takeoff - 140db

Impact of hearing loss on music performance

A musicians ability to hear music properly and therefore perform properly is affected by industrial deafness. Auditory sensitivity and accuracy is critical to a musicians career and even a slight dent in hearing capability can make perfect performances impossible.

Rehearsing and playing for up to 10 hours a day takes its toll after a while. Symptoms of hearing loss include tinnitus, ringing, buzzing, hissing and not hearing sounds as clearly as is necessary.

Steps are being taken in the music industry at the moment to regulate sound decibel levels that musicians are exposed to, and many musicians have expressed frustration that, according to current regulations, it seems to be more acceptable for musicians to lose their hearing than construction workers, according to current regulations.

The music industry is expected to take considerable steps to guard themselves against deafness compensation claims.

Musicians should protect their ears

Musicians who cannot avoid frequent exposure to loud noise should protect their ears using ear plugs and specialist ear pieces. Noise at work regulations state that protective ear devices must reduce exposure to below 85db and be suitable to the relevant work environment and equipment of the person wearing them.

There are a variety of ear plugs available on the market made from varying materials including rubber, plastic, wax, foam and cotton. The Noise Reduction Ratio (NRR) is used to determine the effectiveness of ear devices. Sound intensity is decreased by approximately 15-30db when a musician is wearing ear plugs or another kind of protective ear device like ear muffs.

Claiming for industrial deafness

Despite increasing emphasis on health and safety standards across production and manufacturing industries, and an acknowledgement about the high levels of noise musicians are exposed to, there is still some irregularity in preventative measures.

Professional musicians are still regularly exposed to unacceptable levels of noise, resulting in hearing loss. If you have industrial deafness as a result of frequent exposure to noise through work, you may be able to make a no win, no fee claim. Our team of personal injury solicitors have an excellent success rate and extensive experience in dealing with personal injury cases. Fill out an online claim form or call us now on 01582 437070 and we will let you know whether you are eligible, and if you are, how to make a no win, no fee claim claim.