Do you crank up the volume when your favorite tune comes on the radio? You aren’t alone. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But, here’s the thing: it can also result in some considerable damage.
The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions each day). And it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions in his head. On one occasion he even needed to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven might be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he surely isn’t the last. In more recent times quite a few musicians who are widely recognized for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma which the ears experience on a daily basis gradually brings about significant damage: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time connecting this to your personal worries. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a serious concern. It’s become effortless for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to harmful and constant sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a significant cause for alarm.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also should take some further steps too:
- Wear ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any type of musical event or show), use earplugs. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear protection. But they will safeguard your ears from the worst of the damage. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Download a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be calculated with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when harmful levels are reached you will know it.
- Keep your volume under control: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone might let you know. You should adhere to these safety measures if you value your long-term hearing.
It’s fairly simple math: you will have more serious hearing loss later on the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have begun protecting his hearing sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work around live music), that can be difficult. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a smart idea.