Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

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Home » Resources » Health » Hi-Tech Hearing Aids Make for Easy Listening


Hi-Tech Hearing Aids Make for Easy Listening

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It’s no secret that loud music degrades hearing over time. Rock and blues icon Eric Clapton, who was famous for turning up the amp to 11, has opened up in recent years about his near deafness and tinnitus. Last year, Huey Lewis of Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear—in his case caused by loud music. He can no longer hear music frequencies or hold vocal pitches. While rock stars are obvious candidates for severe hearing loss, orchestral musicians can suffer the same fate. Whether it’s a symphony or a jazz band, over time, trained musicians who do not take measures to protect their hearing will likely suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.

It’s All About the Brain

Sound waves enter the ear through the external auditory canal before striking the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. Attached to the back of the eardrum, in the middle ear, are the three smallest bones in the human body, which form a chain that acts as a transducer, changing acoustic energy into mechanical energy, thereby increasing the sound pressure. This signal is sent into the cochlea, where around 25,000 hair cells clarify and purify sound before it is transmitted to the brain for processing. In a cochlea damaged by long-term exposure to noise, the signal to the brain is no longer intact and the brain processes incomplete information.

Studies show that noise, not age, is the leading cause of hearing loss. Research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites that some 40 million Americans, ages 20 to 69, have damage from everyday loud noise—heavy traffic, noisy restaurants, loud music, and smartphones with earbuds, which deliver louder sound much closer to the eardrum.

There is no downside to wearing hearing aids. Cutting-edge technology offers a range and potentially rich level of hearing. Custom hearing aids are more discreet, equipped with intricate digital programs that balance musical sounds, add fullness to high sounds, and adjust volume levels so that musicians can enjoy both soft and loud sounds in context.

Striking a Balance

Whether you have noise-induced hearing loss or progressive age-related hearing loss, the symptoms largely look the same. Here are some common early signs:

  • Hearing but not understanding certain words or parts of conversation.
  • Difficulty understanding conversation when there is background noise.
  • Needing to turn up the volume of music or TV.
  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves.

To get on the road to better hearing, start with a licensed hearing aid specialist or audiologist who will conduct a full hearing assessment. Based on the results, hearing aids can be customized for a user’s specific needs. Most devices are rechargeable and feature Bluetooth compatibility and smartphone apps that easily make adjustments for phones, music, computers, and TV.

If your hearing loss is primarily in the high frequencies—like drummers and other percussionists—the open-fit receiver in the ear or canal style are usually recommended. These hearing aids  let in the natural low-frequency sounds that the user is still capable of hearing, while amplifying and equalizing high frequencies that have sustained permanent damage. This provides a more natural listening experience. With innovations in hearing aid platforms—many equipped with acoustic motion sensors and soundscape processing—musicians can enjoy optimal clarity. Other advanced features allow hearing aids to filter noise from speech, adapt to different environments, and suppress feedback.

For musicians, hearing loss can be career-ending. For anyone, it’s life-changing. Cut off from communication, the isolation and stress can take a toll. Without mental and social stimulation, evidence suggests that hearing loss in seniors can hasten cognitive decline. A research team at Johns Hopkins University found that even mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia.

Not Your Grandfather’s Hearing Aid

  • Receiver in Canal or Receiver in the Ear (RIC)—Best for high frequency or high-pitched hearing loss.
  • Invisible in the Canal (ITC)—Ideal if you have loss in both low and high sounds. ITC hearing aids help to process sound and block unwanted background noise.
  • Completely in the Canal (CIC)—Similar to ITC, but smaller and even less visible.
  • In the Ear (ITE)—Equipped with a directional microphone which picks up everything and is ideal for mild to severe hearing loss. (Also available with two directional microphones for noisy situations.)
  • Behind the Ear (BTE)—Used by people of all ages, a BTE hearing aid hooks over the top of your ear with an ear mold in the ear canal. Newer devices are now barely visible.

Fine Tuning

Do your research. Active musicians using hearing aids have very specific fitting needs. When researching specialists in your area, ask whether they regularly fit musicians for hearing devices. To optimize a fitting appointment, have a recording on hand of a typical performance. Be clear on how long you rehearse, how long and how often you play, describe acoustics, and the number of other instruments on stage. The more information an audiologist or hearing aid technician has, the more accurately they can recommend the correct technology for you. A musician’s active participation is key to a common understanding of the problem and finding a solution.







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