When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? Lots of people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But, here’s the situation: there can also be significant damage done.
In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between music and hearing loss. That has a lot to do with volume (both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty well-known irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions in his head. On one occasion he even had to be turned around to see the thunderous applause of his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their own hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day stuck between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. Noticeable damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be a Problem
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everyone knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time relating this to your personal worries. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a serious problem. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a substantial problem.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing When Listening to Music?
So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (that’s usually the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). Raising awareness can help some people (particularly younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You may not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. 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. This will help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Control your volume: Many modern smartphones will let you know when you’re going beyond healthy limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: Put in earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But your ears will be protected from additional harm. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In many ways, the math here is pretty simple: you will have more serious hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be difficult for people who work around live music. Ear protection might offer part of a solution there.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a good idea.