During Tinnitus Awareness Week 2016, we are highlighting different areas around protecting hearing. This Blog, written by Nigel Hamilton of Help Musicians UK, tells more about what the charity does and how we are working together to raise awareness around tinnitus.
Help Musicians UK exists to help the people who make the music we all love, at all stages in their career.
Back in 2014 we ran a survey to ask musicians what the big issues affecting their health and wellbeing were. 47% of respondents said that they had experienced hearing issues or problems either occasionally or frequently. We also found research elsewhere that told us that musicians were 5 times more likely to suffer hearing loss than the population as a whole, and 57% more likely to have tinnitus.
We then learnt that noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable, but that once it’s occurred it can never be put right. The irony for musicians of course that the very thing it’s their job to produce – sound, often loud sound – damages one of their most valuable tools, their ear.
Knowing this we had very little choice but to try to help musicians by doing something about it.
We had to make sure we knew what we were talking about so we gathered together a steering group of experts in music, hearing protection and audiology. Emily from the British Tinnitus Association was with us from the start and has been a great source of expertise, support and contacts. Which is just one reason why we’re happy to support Tinnitus Awareness Week!
We also needed to be sure we really understood the issue from a musician’s point of view so we ran a more detailed survey, asking musicians what hearing issues they had experienced, how they felt about them and what they had been able to do about them. The results of that survey can be found here. 32% of people who said they had a hearing problems suffered from tinnitus, so it’s clearly a big issue for musicians.
We know that once you’ve got tinnitus, like any other hearing damage, the best you can do is to manage it. So we have, with the BTA, put a lot of energy into trying to spread the message that you should look after your hearing before anything goes wrong. How many people – audience or band members – come away from a gig with their ears ringing and reckon it’ll be gone the next day? We’ve all been there. But of course its a warning sign, and one day the ringing doesn’t go away, or you realise you’re not hearing as clearly as you used to.
So we’re completely behind the Plug’em campaign, and we now have our own branded musicians earplugs, made by our friends at ACS, which we hand out at events and gigs to encourage people to look after their ears.
We’ve also been putting on panels and talks and showing up at conferences, shows and other events with our stall to spread the word. So look out for us and our events in the coming year!
In the meantime if you do need help or advice about hearing, or anything else affecting your carer for that matter, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Have a look at our hearing webpages We’re #HearForMusicians.