Do you crank the volume up when your favorite tune 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, here’s the thing: there can also be appreciable damage done.
The connection between hearing loss and music is closer than we previously thought. 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.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a pretty famous 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. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and needed to be turned around when his performance was finished because he was unable to hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven may be the first and most well-known 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 own hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma that the ears experience every day eventually results in significant harm: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
You may think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not performing for large crowds. 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’s the problem. Thanks to the advanced capabilities of earbuds, just about everyone can experience life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to damaging and continuous sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a considerable cause for worry.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also need to take some further steps too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be beneficial to get one of a few free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will know it.
- Manage your volume: If you go above a safe volume your smartphone may let you know. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most harmful 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.).
It’s pretty simple math: you will have more significant hearing loss in the future 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.
The best way to lessen your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work around live music), that can be a challenge. Part of the solution is wearing ear protection.
But all of us would be a lot better off if we just turned the volume down to reasonable levels.