Inspiration \ Coping & Care

Musicians and Hearing Loss

Ever since she can remember, Kathy Peck has loved music. She's worked professionally for decades, but at a tremendous personal price.

Her career started in the late 70's with "the contractions," a san Francisco all girl punk trio.

They were looking for a bass player, but I brought into the mix being a writer and I was cued into the punk rock and new wave that was happening in music.

In 1985 a great gig, warming up for Duran Duran at the Oakland coliseum, turned disastrous for Peck.

It was very, very loud and the next day, I had what's been called noise hangover and tinnitus, ringing in the ear, and it manifested itself like bongos in my ear.

It turns out the loud music had permanently damaged Peck's hearing.

That's something many in the rock music industry would have been unwilling to admit at the time out of fear of losing work. But Peck tried to seek help.

I was put in a room with 80 year olds and taught to read lips.

Not satisfied with that, she took matters into her own hands.

She co-founded H.E.A.R.: hearing education and awareness for rockers, to spread the word to musicians about hearing protection. For the first year or so, H.E.A.R. was a fledgling screening program. She wasn't counting on word spreading all the way to rocker Pete Townshend of the who.

He came forward about his own hearing loss in interviews with Rolling Stone, and he also mentioned our organization and it was quite a rocket launch.

Today Peck spends part of her time fitting musicians for custom earplugs. And not just rockers. Maki Ishii plays violin for the San Francisco opera orchestra. Even classical music can be deafeningly loud.

Because someone like myself in the opera pit, I have trombones right behind me with their bells right here (motions) and they can produce huge sounds. It physically hurts, and it leaves half of my face kind of numb or ringing in my ears for a day.

Kathy's plugs are exactly fitted to our ears. It allows us to be able to hear a little bit clearer than the commercial earplugs.

If you talked about hearing loss, you would not work, producers would not hire you.

Peck also reaches out to high school music students, encouraging them to protect their hearing.

I don't want you like you know a great musical career and at the end of it or in the middle of it to lose it because you have damage.

RACHEL I was actually surprised that hearing didn't recover, because I've been to a few concerts and I've been like, I didn't hear as well for a couple days. I always thought your hearing just came back. In the future when I go to concerts, I'm going to bring earplugs.

Peck still plays bass, still with "the contractions." Her problems with hearing loss meant she had to make changes, but walking away from music was never an option.

KATHY: Music's very important to me, and I tell musicians they should never give up what they love. They might have to modify how they do things, but they shouldn't give it up what they love to do.

This entry last modified on: January 18, 2013 4:20 PM

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About the Video

She was rocking out as part of a successful 80s punk band until hearing loss derailed her rising music career. Now Kathy Peck is warning other musicians about the importance of hearing protection.


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