If you didn’t (now) know the answer and someone asked you who was more susceptible to having hearing issues — rock and rollers or classical musicians — you’d say rock and rollers, wouldn’t you? Bet most people would.
And no one would blame you. Classical music is not typically played at the volume or intensity of rock music, nor amplified to shake arenas. Plus, unlike Pete Townshend, Huey Lewis, Brian Johnson and many other rockers who have come out publicly with their noise-induced hearing issues, we don’t hear of classical musicians suffering. (Though to be fair, publicity-wise, the genres are hardly apple to apples.)
But in a 2018 National Public Radio story titled, “For Musicians, Hearing Loss is More Common Than One Would Think,” audiologist Marshall Chasin — who works with musicians with hearing loss issues — explains why our perception is not reality.
As Dr. Chasin notes, “It turns out that classical music is actually more damaging than rock ‘n’ roll. A rock ‘n’ roller might pick up their guitar on a Friday night gig, and may not even practice or touch their music for another week or two until the next gig. In contrast, a classical musician plays four, five hours a day practicing, they may teach one or two hours a day, and then they have four or five, or maybe seven or eight, different performances every week. So even though the spot intensity might be greater for a rock ‘n’ roll set, if you take the dose that they get — the number of hours per week you’re playing — for a classical musician, it’s much, much greater.”
Now you've got another fact you can use to win a bet, amaze your friends, or as small talk with coworkers while you’re waiting for everyone to show up to that 2:00 p.m. virtual meeting.
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