Back in 1985, Michael Santucci founded Sensaphonics because as an audiologist. he saw an unmet need for hearing wellness in the music industry. Back then, a hearing disorder was worn like a badge of honor, as if it was the inevitable price to pay for years of touring.
Awareness of hearing issues has dramatically increased since then, but musicians and crew remain at risk from loud sound on stage, from practice, rehearsal, and recording. The industry and lifestyle add up to a near-constant assault on the ears.
For music industry personnel, there is no question whether your hearing is at risk. It is. According to a landmark 2003 study by researcher Kim Kähäri at Göteborg University in Sweden, 74 percent of rock/jazz musicians reported hearing disorders. The most common ones were hearing loss, tinnitus, and hypersensitivity (extreme sensitivity to loud sounds). (Research abstract here)
The pro audio and music industry was – and remains – completely unregulated. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) workplace rules do not apply. With no limits on sound levels, shows can easily exceed daily exposure limits and injure your moneymakers. And without your hearing, it’s pretty difficult to be a musician or audio professional.
As an audiologist, he’s always found it puzzling that so many musicians and sound engineers don’t take care of their hearing. Instrumentalists take great care of their hands; singers take care of their voices. But even after a show that produces scary symptoms like ringing or pain in the ears, once the symptoms go away, most musicians figure they’ve dodged a bullet and go right back to the same behavior.
So why do they do so little to protect their ears?