Do you turn the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? Many people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can truly enjoy. But there’s one thing you should understand: there can also be appreciable harm done.
In the past we weren’t conscious of the relationship between music and hearing loss. Volume is the biggest problem(both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And it’s one of the reasons that countless of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions internally. There’s even one story about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had to be turned around at the end of the performance because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven may be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he definitely isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their own hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day stuck between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will ultimately be the result.
Not a Musician? Still 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 hard time connecting this to your personal worries. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a serious concern. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to harmful and continuous sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a significant cause for worry.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Hearing?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s a problem (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) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Get a volume-checking app: You may not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be helpful to download one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. This will help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Keep your volume in check: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may alert you. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
- Use ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any kind of musical show or event), use earplugs. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But your ears will be protected from additional damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
In many ways, the math here is quite straight forward: you will have more significant hearing loss later in life the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have begun protecting his ears sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. That can be challenging for people who work around live music. Part of the solution is wearing hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to sensible levels is also a good idea.