Usually, the ideas explored through music are viewed as more dangerous than the act of music-making itself. But being a serious musician actually does come with some serious health risks. Some are unexpected, but all are preventable. There are plenty of things we can do as musicians to write, record, perform, and tour in ways that are as healthy as possible. Here are three health risks to watch out for:
Our first health risk is the most obvious, but it’s not being taken seriously enough in the music industry. Just one night of neglecting your ears at a show can cause permanent hearing damage, and, even scarier, hearing loss is proven to be cumulative. This means that the 40 year-old you is going to have to live with the damage you did to your ears in your teens and twenties, and it only gets worse over time.
All the common sense advice you’ve heard over the years holds true when it comes to preventing hearing loss. Be vigilant when it comes to wearing ear plugs on stage and during rehearsals. If you’re using headphones to mix or write music on a computer, don’t use earbuds. Speakers set at a safe volume are a better bet, but for when only headphones will do, use over-the-ear options.
Repetitive motion-related injuries
Practice is a critical part of keeping your chops up as a musician, but it comes with health risks. Specifically, repetitive motion-related injuries are something to look out for when it comes to the ways you play your instrument over and over again. The first step to preventing these sorts of injuries is to recognize the specific ways your body has to move in order for you to play. Taking frequent breaks will help, as will looking up stretches and other preventive measures tailored to your unique needs. Singers are not immune from these injuries, and actually have a whole bunch of separate voice-related maladies to worry about. Take some time to research the unique ways your involvement in music impacts you and the best ways to stay healthy.
Anxiety and depression
Music is and always has been a brutal business. Nights are long, wages are often pitiful, and, for many, the act of creating and sharing music is literally thankless. So much music is now being made that finding listeners is proving to be a massive challenge. The artists who do manage to connect with audiences are having to spend more and more time touring to make up for dwindling physical music sales. The unavoidable hardships that come along with being a serious musician leaves many vulnerable to anxiety and depression. In particular, those that tour for long stretches away from stable relationships and reliable income sources are especially susceptible.
Professional counseling can help musicians fight mental illness, but one of the most powerful weapons a person has is knowing their limitations. Music can be one of life’s most fulfilling creative pursuits, but it can also lead to an immense amount of turmoil. The key is learning how to be a serious musician in a way that’s emotionally sustainable.
Every musician is different, but we’re all susceptible to health risks in our work. If you love music and want to make it for the rest of your life, start preventing music-related health risks now.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.