Whether you are a musician, music fan, or simply enjoy fascinating expert findings, today’s fact may perk up your ears: Why would classical musicians be more likely to have hearing loss than rock ‘n roll artists? After all, classical music is not normally played at the volume and intensity of rock music, let alone amplified by giant speakers we typically see at rock concerts.
So, what gives?
Marshall Chasin, who works with musicians as director and chief audiologist at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada, addressed why classical musicians are more susceptible to hearing issues than rock ‘n rollers in an interview with National Public Radio.
Let’s explore his 2 main reasons:
1. Continuous music exposure is contributing to hearing damage
We know that noise can damage hearing over time, particularly if sound is loud and continuous. This is where noise damage comes in for classical musicians, according to Chasin.
Classical artists generally spend a greater amount of time with their music than rock performers, he says: This may include practicing 4–5 hours a day, teaching 1–2 hours a day, and performing anywhere between 4–8 live performances each week.
Conversely, rock musicians may perform a one-time gig and then not practice or play again for another 1–2 weeks before their next performance.
So while rock music may be played at a higher intensity—it’s the longer duration of noise that is more damaging to hearing, in this case.
2. Environmental stress is impacting hearing health
It’s no secret that stress isn’t great for our health—and that includes our hearing. For classical musicians, stress often stems from a dislike for their environment and labor relations issues, according to Chasin.
First, classical performers usually don’t have a say in the music they play, he explains. Secondly, they have a greater likelihood of friction with their colleagues (this may include complaints about each other’s performances, for example).
On the contrary, rock artists typically play music they want to play, which contributes to feeling happier with their circumstances.
“We’re not too sure of all the reasons, but we do know that when you’re disliking something, you have a higher stress level,” says Chasin. “Believe it or not, the biochemistry of the air changes, and it makes you slightly more susceptible to hearing loss.”
Protect your hearing to enjoy music into the future
If you perform music, attend concerts, and/or listen to music often (particularly with personal listening devices) it is worthwhile to schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing care professional. You may not even have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) but given that it is usually gradual and difficult to detect, it’s best to be certain.
The earlier you catch NIHL, the easier it is to treat (hearing aids may be a good option). Find a local hearing care professional by typing your zip code in here.
There are also things you can do to protect your hearing from NIHL:
- Wear hearing protection: This includes filtered earplugs, which allow you to protect your hearing and for music and environmental sounds to come across naturally. (Ask your hearing care professional about SoundGear and the best protective solution for you.)
- Monitor noise levels: A smartphone app with a sound level meter like SoundCheck Live can tell you if surrounding noise is harmful or not, in real time. So, you can choose to put on hearing protection or leave the noisy environment if needed.
- Limit your exposure: Noise becomes harmful at 85 decibels and above, so limiting your time spent in such noise levels (SoundCheck Live can help you identify these) can make all the difference in protecting your hearing.
(Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we limit noise exposure of 80–85 dB to 2 hours, and 95 dB to 50 minutes.)
So whether you’re a classical music buff, self-proclaimed rocker, or lover of all-things-music, you can continue to tune in to your favorites and tune out NIHL—by taking care of your hearing.