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Protect Your Hearing

Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme

Our Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme gives you access to specialist hearing assessment and bespoke hearing protection, in partnership with Help Musicians UK and Musicians Hearing Services.

We understand that hearing protection is important for musicians but can be prohibitively expensive, so we have developed a scheme that gives access to musician-specialist audiologists and bespoke hearing protection for an affordable amount. 

What’s included? 

The Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme offers the following:

  • Free audiological assessment and ear check up from a specialist in musicians' hearing (worth up to £145)
  • One set of free custom made, specialist musicians' ear plugs (worth £170)
  • An automatic call back for a subsidised hearing test costing £20, every two years (worth £90)
  • Expert advice on referral routes and next steps to manage any problems, including contact with your GP
  • Option of wax removal if necessary, at a subsidised rate of £40

Clinics take place in London and Manchester throughout the year, and there is a rolling programme of regional clinics. To find out more about these, keep an eye on upcoming MU events or contact your Regional Office.

How much does it cost? 

The scheme costs a one-off payment of £30 for Musicians’ Union members. 

This gets you ongoing membership to the scheme, and you will receive assessment and hearing protection worth almost over £300 in your first year of membership. Every two years you will get an automatic call back for an audiological assessment, for which you will pay £20 (saving you £268).

This scheme only includes the costs of one set of hearing protection – it does not provide replacements for lost, stolen or broken hearing protection. We recommend that you include your bespoke hearing protection on your home contents insurance. Musicians’ Hearing Services will provide you with a proof of purchase for the full value of your hearing protection on request. 

“We want musicians to be able to access high quality ear protection that is affordable, and we are delighted to be working with Help Musicians UK and Musicians Hearing Services on this scheme”
Diane Widdison, MU National Organiser for Education & Training

Sign up

Sign up for the Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme by completing a simple form via Help Musicians UK.

You will need to provide contact details and evidence to show that you are a professional musician. 

Help Musicians UK will then make an assessment and be in touch within 5 working days to let you know if you are eligible.  They will also pass on your details to Musicians Hearing Services who will be in touch to register you on the scheme and make you an appointment at a hearing clinic of your choice.

Your Hearing: Advice for MU Members

Overall, noise at work issues are covered by The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) but because of the very specific situation in music and entertainment, a specially written guidance document called Sound Advice was drawn up.

Local authority enforcement officers are responsible to ensure that all premises comply with the CNWR, and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if an employer’s premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.

This is separate from the local authority responsibilities for the noise created by a venue and its effect on those around it.

Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and there are two action levels — these are at 80dB(A) and 85dB(A).

  • First Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be made available for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C).
  • Second Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C).
  • Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C). These limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

Please note that the typical dB(A) levels reached by a rock band can be anything up to 125dB(A), and for a symphony orchestra, 94dB(A).

There are a number of jobs that have additional hearing factors to consider, such as DJs and sound engineers.

Noise

Noise is a particular problem for musicians as, unlike most other jobs, noise is part of the product and not an unwanted by-product. Nevertheless, musicians are affected by noise levels as workers in any industry are, and their hearing is crucial for the job they do.

This presents interesting challenges for members and we have sought to assist members in dealing with these. A good resource of overall information is given on the HSE Sound Advice website at soundadvice.info

The music and entertainment sectors are unique from other areas of work in that high noise levels and extremely loud special effects are often regarded as essential elements of an event. However, loud sounds, whatever their source, can damage your hearing. Hearing damage is permanent, irreversible and can cause deafness.

Deafness claims and causes of deafness

Self-employed and freelance musicians

There is no requirement for the self-employed and freelancers to have their own health surveillance. However, the self-employed and freelancers are strongly advised to arrange their own hearing health surveillance if they think their exposure levels regularly exceed the Second Action Value, they regularly have to wear hearing protection, or they have other concerns about their hearing.

Procedure for deafness claims

There are many obstacles in the way of success in deafness claims. The first principle to remember is that employers always say that deafness claims are late and will try to stop a case. Employers do not have to prove that they did not harm you. You have to prove that they did actually harm you, as you are the person making the claim.

Timeliness of claims

The law states that court proceedings must actually have been issued within three years from the time you knew, or ought reasonably to have considered, that your problems might have been caused by work.

This means that as soon as you noticed symptoms, it ought to have crossed your mind that your hearing problems could have been noise induced. At this point you should have consulted a doctor. If you had, you would have been told the cause of your problems by a medical professional.

A judge will expect you to have acted and thought in this way, and may decide that you are outside the time limits if this is not what you did. If you have actually seen a doctor and been told that your deafness was due to your work more than three years ago, it is even more unlikely that your case can be pursued any further.

Employers always say that deafness claims are late and will try to stop a case from running. If your case went to court, the judge would have to make a decision and listen to the arguments made by both sides. If he agrees with the employers, he will not allow your case to proceed. The judge has discretionary powers and may agree to allow a case to continue where it seems out of time. But this is not given lightly, and in recent years, judges have hardly ever used their discretion in such cases.

Causes of deafness

Hearing loss can be caused by many things, including the natural ageing process, hereditary causes, health problems, head injuries, ear infections plus some drugs for illnesses can have the side effect of causing deafness.

“Noise induced hearing loss is 100% irreversible but is 100% preventable”
Paul Checkley, Musicians Hearing Services

A noise-induced hearing loss has distinguishing characteristic features that are detectable on an audiogram after a hearing test. There is a range of hearing that is described by doctors as ‘within normal limits’. The fact that you may have worked in noise does not necessarily mean that you have any hearing problems, or that those problems have been caused by work.

Sometimes, earlier employers may have contributed to a hearing loss. However, those companies may no longer exist and it may be impossible to find the insurers. Often, hobbies can cause deafness, such as shooting, the power tools used in DIY and discos. These factors may account for all or at least part of your deafness and will reduce your claim’s value.

Excessive noise

If you have worked in loud noise you may not have worked in excessive noise so as to break the rules laid down by law. In order to break the rules laid down by law, you would have to prove that your noise exposure exceeded 90dB when averaged over eight hours.

Some people can still suffer hearing damage even when their exposure is within the legal limits. As a rough guide, if people next to you have to shout for you to understand them, then there may be a hazard to your hearing.

Guilty knowledge

This legal term describes the date by which an employer must have realised that noise could cause damage to the hearing of its staff. It is only from this date that the courts will say that an employer is guilty. The courts have decided that the date of guilty knowledge for most major employers is 1963, although some may have earlier or later dates.

Any damage done to your hearing by employment prior to the guilty knowledge date cannot receive compensation, and in any successful case a reduction may have to be made to allow for this earlier exposure. If you wish to pursue a deafness claim, contact your Regional Office.

This section is reproduced with the kind permission of Thompsons Solicitors.