Do you turn up the volume when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Lots of people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But, here’s the situation: there can also be considerable harm done.
The connection between hearing loss and music is closer than we once concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times per day you listen and how excessive the volume is). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach coping with the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (except in his head). There’s even one story about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and needed to be turned around at the end of the performance because he was unable to hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
As a non-rock star (at least in terms of the profession, we all know you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a hard time relating this to your own concerns. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you daily.
But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to harmful and continuous sounds make this one time cliche grievance into a considerable cause for concern.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing When Listening to Music?
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). People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and need to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But you also should take some other steps too:
- Wear ear protection: Wear earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. They won’t really lessen your experience. But your ears will be protected from additional harm. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Download a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a live concert. It can be helpful to get one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. In this way, when dangerous levels are reached you will know it.
- Control your volume: Some modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
It’s pretty straight forward math: you will have more extreme hearing loss in the future the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for people who happen to work around live music), that can be challenging. Ear protection may supply part of an answer there.
But we all would be a lot better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.