Black Sabbath and Beethoven Have More In Common Than You Think
It could be said that musicians create the sound track of our lives. We associate music with important life events. It has the power to make us dance, cry and laugh, but sometimes it’s at a significant cost to the musicians themselves. From Beethoven to members of Black Sabbath, many musicians have suffered hearing impairment, tinnitus and, in some cases, total hearing loss from making beautiful music.
The recent remake of “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga has brought the issues of musician’s hearing loss to center stage once again. Cooper’s character, Jackson Maine, suffers from tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. As Variety 1magazine described it, “The movie lets us touch his damage, body and soul: the hearing loss accompanied by tinnitus (which we hear on the soundtrack), the sense that going through the motions of stardom for too long has ground him to a weary nub.”
Hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand in hand. Tinnitus, a ringing, clicking or other type of noise that occurs constantly in the ears, can cause hearing loss or accompany it. Some musicians create music despite it; others because of it. A list2 of ten famous musicians with tinnitus and hearing damage has some entries that may surprise you.
- Neil Young reportedly suffered from tinnitus throughout his stellar career.
- Ozzy Osborne of Black Sabbath suffers from “significant hearing loss” after spending decades in front of high-volume loudspeakers while playing heavy metal music.
- will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas suffers from tinnitus that he says causes beeping in his ears “all day, every day”. The tinnitus is so extreme that he plays music to counteract the noise in his ears. “I don’t know what silence sounds like anymore,” he said3. “Music is the only thing that eases my pain.”
- Beethoven, one of the most famous musicians who ever lived had such dire tinnitus that he was barely able to hear music or conversation. Historians believe that he created his most famous piece of music, the Ninth Symphony, while completely deaf4.
Rock Concert Noise Registers at Decibels Greater than Jackhammer Noise
The reason that musicians suffer with hearing loss and tinnitus is clear; it is caused by long periods of exposure to loud noise. The average rock concert registers at 110 decibels5, which registers at the human pain threshold. It’s louder than a jackhammer that registers at 100 decibels.
Musicians can wear earplugs to protect their ears from sustained loud noise exposure. In fact, that very suggestion is made to Jackson Maine in “A Star is Born.” However, the ear plugs that were available years ago muddled the quality of music that the musician could hear. As a result, many didn’t wear them and sustained hearing damage.
Newer, high fidelity earplugs offer protection while allowing musicians to hear the music they are playing. These earplugs reduce damaging levels of sound while maintaining the quality of the original sound.
Music plays an important role in life and it shouldn’t result in hearing loss or impairment for musicians. There is a lesson to be learned from their experience. Enjoying concerts, fireworks, nightclubs, and other entertainment with high levels of noise can be a good thing, as long as your hearing is protected in the process.