When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking up the volume? Many people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But, here’s the thing: there can also be considerable damage done.
In the past we weren’t conscious 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 each day). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a rather 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. On one occasion he even had to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he surely isn’t the last. In more recent times lots of musicians who are well known for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you every day.
But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a serious concern. It’s become easy 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 detrimental and constant sounds make this once cliche grievance into a substantial cause for worry.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears When Listening to Music?
So, first we need to admit there’s a problem (that’s usually the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). People are putting their hearing in peril and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Keep your volume under control: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may alert you. You should listen to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any kind of musical event or show), wear hearing protection. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the worst of the injury. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You might not recognize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to get one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. In this way, when harmful levels are reached you will know it.
It’s rather straight forward math: you will have more serious hearing loss later on the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
The best way to lessen your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be difficult. Ear protection may provide part of an answer there.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a smart idea.