When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Many people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s enjoyable. But, here’s the thing: there can also be appreciable harm done.
In the past we weren’t informed about 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 many musicians are rethinking how they approach coping with the volume of their music.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he composed (except in his head). On one occasion he even needed to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven is definitely not the only example of hearing issues in musicians. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. The trauma which the ears experience every day gradually results in noticeable harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You might think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming for you (usually). 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’s the concern. Thanks to the advanced features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a real issue.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Ears?
So, first we need to admit there’s a problem (that’s usually the first step, but it’s particularly 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 take too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a live concert. It can be beneficial to get one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of your environment. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Keep your volume under control: If you go above a safe listening level, your smartphone might alert you. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music show. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear protection. But your ears will be protected from further harm. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
In a lot of ways, the math here is pretty simple: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss could be later in life. 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 minimize your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. For musicians (and for people who happen to work around live music), that can be challenging. Ear protection could offer part of a solution there.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a good idea.