Tinnitus is common, affecting about 10-15% of the general public. While hearing a ringing in the ear is bothersome, it can be especially problematic for musicians, as their livelihood depends on their ability to hear.
Are Musicians More Likely to Experience Tinnitus?
While the numbers vary from study to study, the general consensus is that anywhere from 30 to 50% of musicians experience at least some degree of tinnitus. Experts believe this is because of their increased exposure to loud noises.
How Loud Noises Cause Tinnitus
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB); anything above 85 dB can cause damage to the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. These hair cells are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical impulses, which are sent via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. When damaged, the hair cells often send out incorrect information, alerting your brain to sounds that are not present.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) put together the following list of the average decibel ratings of familiar sounds:
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dB.
- Movie theater: 74-104 dB.
- Dirt bikes: 80-110 dB.
- Concert at The Olympic Venue: 94-110 dB.
- Sirens: 110-129 dB.
- Fireworks: 140-160 dB.
How Tinnitus Affects Musicians
For those who play music for a living, being able to distinguish between different pitches and frequencies is crucial. Unfortunately, tinnitus can affect your perception of sound and music.
In addition, musicians are often hyper-aware while listening to sounds. This can make their tinnitus seem louder than it would to someone who is not in the music industry.
How Musicians Can Protect Themselves
Wearing hearing protection is the best way to protect yourself from tinnitus caused by exposure to loud music. Disposable earplugs can be used in a pinch and are available at your local pharmacy. While more expensive, custom-fit earplugs provide superior protection and a better fit. They are the better option for those who spend significant time around loud noises.
To learn more about tinnitus or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact SW Idaho ENT today.