Most musicians understand that they have a higher chance of developing noise-induced hearing loss, but when they do, many choose to forego wearing hearing devices while playing because they feel the technology isn’t suited to a musician’s needs. Some hearing healthcare professionals even discourage musicians from wearing devices while performing because they believe wearing amplification around already loud sounds can lead to even further hearing damage.
But thanks to a new study in the music city, this concern may soon be a thing of the past.
Dr. Todd Ricketts, a hearing-aid researcher and professor at Vanderbilt University, and Kristen D’Onofrio, one of his doctoral students, are currently studying hearing loss in various musicians and how hearing devices can be developed to better suit their needs.
Traditionally, hearing devices are designed to pick up sounds in a narrow range so wearers can focus on specific sounds, such as someone’s voice, while in a noisy environment. According to Dr. Ricketts, this can be challenging for musicians, as they need to be able to simultaneously hear a multitude of sounds from their bandmates in order to play properly. For most musicians, this means seeing a hearing healthcare professional to have custom ear molds created that sync with their monitors so they can more clearly hear themselves and their bandmates while playing in front of a loud crowd.
Building upon this familiarity between the two fields, Dr. Ricketts and D’Onofrio, a musician in her own right, hope their findings will influence an improvement in hearing device technology and fittings for musicians. With the various specializations in today’s hearing healthcare technology—waterproof for athletic wearers, wireless connectivity for digitally savvy wearers—hearing devices made with a musician’s needs in mind may just be a natural progression.
Last updated: March 4, 2014