skip to main content

My hearing health is not something I'd really given much consideration to - until I got to my 40s and other bits of me started deteriorating (suddenly needing glasses and finding grey hairs on my pillow).

At the beginning of my career I frequently played amplified gigs in loud bars, but my younger self always had an “it will never happen to me” attitude to hearing problems.

Later in my career I didn’t really feel that I needed ear plugs in my teaching as (apart from Wider Opportunities whole class clarinet lessons #honk), nothing I was doing was very loud. And whilst I’m an avid gig and concert goer, I hadn’t noticed any ill effects from either so hadn’t really considered their long-term impact.

I carry my ear plugs with me all of the time and wear them often

Last year I was at a gig with a very wise friend who was wearing the ear plugs he had received by using the Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme – a membership benefit that gives MU members access to affordable hearing health care. He told me how much better the sound was with them in, so I thought I’d get some to try, particularly as the Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme is such a bargain.

I applied online and was surprised how quickly the appointment was arranged after I signed up. I had the hearing test and was relieved that my hearing was fine.

The audiologist took time to explain the different ear plugs available and establish which sort would be right for me. Moulds were taken of my ears, which was a very weird sensation, but I had feared it would be painful and it wasn’t at all.

My ear plugs arrived through the post about three weeks later. I carry them with me all of the time and wear them often.

Do you work in music education?

MU Education Reps are a grassroots level liaison between the MU and music education workplaces in the UK.

Find out more about the MU Educations Reps

The whole process was efficient and simple

My friend was right, I hear the music better at gigs, I sometimes wear them when I teach too. I even wear them in places where I hadn’t thought I would, like on the tube to cancel out unwanted noise and make my journeys more pleasant.

The plugs I chose are on a string and have a handy clip to attach to my clothes, so there’s no chance I will lose them in the dark after a few drinks!

The whole process was efficient and simple. I think of wearing my earplugs as being a bit like flossing my teeth; there’s no real immediate or obvious health benefits, but I know I am protecting something of the utmost importance to me in the long run.

I would urge all MU members to protect their hearing, their greatest asset.

As musicians I think it’s easy to take our hearing health for granted, but I would urge all MU members to protect their hearing, their greatest asset. Whether you are worried about your hearing and putting off seeing a professional, or whether you don’t give your hearing health much thought, it is vital that we all look after ourselves.

I also urge musicians who are not yet members of the MU to join, even if it is just for the sake of this excellent benefit. I wish I had used the Hearing Scheme years ago.

Photo ofSarah Tomlinson
Thanks to

Sarah Tomlinson

Sarah Tomlinson is a woodwind teacher from Milton Keynes. She has been an MU member for seven years. She was instrumental in setting up the Milton Keynes Music Co-operative and sits on their board of Directors, learn more about it here:

Get advice and support on health and safety at work

The MU provides specialist advice and resources for working musicians to ensure health and safety in both the workplace and when travelling to and from engagements.

Health & safety services for musicians

Explore health & safety advice

Get advice and support on health and safety at work

Continue reading

Two young female street musicians, one playing acoustic guitar and the other an accordian.

Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust 

The Alan Surtees Trust makes up to four awards of £2,000 annually to support performers aged 16 to 30 with projects rooted in, or influenced by, folk or traditional music of all cultures. The deadline for applications is April 30.

Published: 15 April 2024

Read more about Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust