Losing the Sound of Metal – hearing loss Telegraph interview
Drummer learns to live with his hearing loss
In Oscar-nominated film Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed plays a rocker who loses his hearing. Sadly, the story is a reality for too many musicians.
Unsurprisingly, recent data says musicians are among the most likely people to have a hearing problem. “Research has shown that between 37-58 per cent of classical musicians, and 46-49 per cent of rock or pop musicians have found to have hearing impairments, with the general population coming in at around 13 per cent,” says Paul Checkley, Clinical Director at Harley Street Hearing & Musicians’ Hearing Services.
“The music industry is somewhat behind when making a comparison to the management of noise exposure in the industrial and construction sectors. The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on building sites is enforceable, meaning that without use of the appropriate hearing protection, you could be removed from site. This is not the case in the music industry, despite the levels of noise being comparable at times.”
Although Paul points out that the increase in headphone use blurs the line somewhat between damage done by listening to music on your phone and being bombarded by decibels at a gig, the number of stars who have damaged their hearing while on the job is nevertheless long.
It’s not just tinnitus that can affect a person’s mental health. Paul Checkley also lists hyperacusis (where everyday sounds seem much louder than they should) and diplacusis (where the same sound can be perceived as being different in pitch between the two ears) as potential hearing problems that can cause a person problems beyond their ears. “These symptoms, along with the hearing loss, can affect a person’s confidence, and does often impact their mental health,” he says.
“The presence of a hearing loss alone can also cause people to isolate because they are embarrassed about not hearing well, which then has further effect on their mental health. Managing the hearing loss can help to reverse the isolation, allowing the person to become more confident with their interactions and therefore improve their well-being.”
In the UK, the Musicians Union offer a Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme, which offers free check-ups and professional earplugs, as well as subsidised treatments like wax removal. And although treatment like the one that worked for Brian Johnson after the fact is good, all audiologists will tell you that protection is the best cure.
“Don’t wait for there to be a problem with your hearing; be proactive,” says Paul Checkley. “Having annual hearing tests will allow your hearing to be monitored and means that it will be much easier to pinpoint any potential changes and manage them quickly and efficiently. There are patients who have significant hearing losses who initially thought they might have to stop playing music, but through careful use of hearing aids with specific settings for their musical endeavours, and the understanding that there are adaptations that might be required, many are able to continue playing and performing music.”
Click here see the full Telegraph interview.
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