The Sound of Metal Review by Jonthan our Audiologist

The latest endeavour from Amazon Prime, the film Sound of Metal, touches on a subject close to my heart; musicians and hearing loss. It is an excellent film, and well worth a watch. Without overly analysing the story, I feel there are some key take-home messages embedded in the narrative which apply to our patients.

The film follows a heavy metal drummer, Reuben, whose life falls into free-fall as he starts to suffer from hearing loss whilst on tour. He goes through a number of emotions, including anger and denial as he comes to grips with his situation. You watch as he is supported by a small deaf community and comes to terms with his new reality.

Having worked with a lot of musicians, the emphasis needs to be on wearing hearing protection in loud environments. I cannot stress this enough; if you are a live performance musician, you need to have custom moulded hearing protection. Whether it be custom in-ear monitors, or a custom moulded passive flat frequency response decibel filter, a ‘generic’ fitting solution simply will not suffice. This very topic matter was highlighted in another film A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (also great viewing).

It’s worth noting that noise-induced hearing loss tends to be gradual unless caused by acoustic trauma from an exceptionally loud instantaneous sound in close proximity to the ear. This is not what happened in the case of this film’s protagonist (Ruben), it seems. Noise-induced hearing loss is often accompanied by persistent tinnitus, which Ruben suffered with initially but in his case, it quickly subsided.

It is more likely he suffered what’s called an idiopathic sudden sensorineural loss (SSNHL). The most widely accepted explanation for SSNHL is an autoimmune event, but it is still quite poorly understood and affects a small percentage of the population. Sudden sensorineural loss, if caught early, can sometimes be rectified with a steroid injection. If hearing drops suddenly then seek urgent audiological assessment and medical intervention, as the time-sensitive treatment window could mean the difference between retaining much of your hearing or going deaf as Ruben did.

The film covers the grieving process well, as sudden hearing loss is just that – a loss. And you follow the protagonist’s journey through the stages of grief to acceptance. It also paints a very accurate picture of the limitations of cochlear implants (CI). It is much harder to accept the sound quality offered by CI if you have experienced natural hearing, and success starts with comprehensive management of expectations as to such. Ruben probably should have had this explained to him more thoroughly! However, on the whole, the film is compelling and opens a vivid window into the world of hearing loss, shining a light on this silent condition which is hugely in need of public awareness as always.

You can watch The Sound of Metal on Amazon Prime.

The Sound of Metal poster