Denise Dodd is a Vancouver musician who told me about a very noisy job she had long ago. It wasn’t playing music that gave her a headache every night – it was selling flowers on a bar circuit in Edmonton back in the 90s.
Her shift started at 8 p.m. at the rock bar headquarters, where she met the driver who took her to a country bar, a couple of lounges, then back to the rock bar.
“The lounges were okay for noise, but in the bars and clubs, it was all shouting. You also had to stand very close to people, while they yelled in your ear,” she said. “The customers were pretty drunk usually, so it made it hard to keep your distance from them. You had to ‘chat people up’ – usually men – to get them to buy a rose for a lady, and they would usually hit on me as well!”
Her shift went til 3 a.m. and she said the headache usually hit halfway through the night.
“By the end of the night, my throat was sore from yelling, and my ears were ringing when I got home and it was quiet. That’s when I would notice it,” she said. “It was like after a concert, only this was four or five times a week.”
But that was many years ago. Since then, Denise has been to audio recording school, where she learned about hearing protection.
“I learned a lot about how our ears work, and how fragile they are. I now am much more aware of the potential damage that can occur – usually when we are younger and not conscious of it. Often the effects don’t show up til you’re in your 40s,” she said, looking back at the flower-selling job.
“In retrospect, I should have been wearing ear plugs, but being in my early 20s, I still didn’t get the concept of long-term consequences,” said Denise, who has a 40-something drummer friend who has been playing and touring since his teens and is now losing his hearing.
“The damage was not just from playing drums, but having the guitar amps right behind him, and being in the bar between sets hanging out,” Denise said.
Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR)
Denise’s story reminded me of HEAR – an organization devoted to hearing protection for musicians and music-lovers.
“Damage from loud sound can occur from playing music, attending concerts, dance clubs, raves, using stereo earphones, playing amplified systems too loudly, or other noisy activities,” reads the HEAR website. “We’re here for musicians, DJs, sound engineers, music fans (especially teens) and anyone needing help with their hearing.”
Thanks to Denise for telling me her story.