Do you turn up the volume when your favorite song comes on the radio? Lots of people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But, here’s the situation: there can also be appreciable damage done.
The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously thought. Volume is the biggest problem(both when it comes to sound level and the number of listening sessions each day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach dealing with the volume of their music.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a rather famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the music he composed (except in his head). On one occasion he even had to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause of his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven might 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 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 remarkably similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. Noticeable damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least in terms of the profession, everyone knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a hard time connecting this to your own worries. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a serious problem. It’s become easy for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to detrimental and constant sounds make this one time cliche grievance into a substantial cause for worry.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Ears?
So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (that’s usually the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). Raising awareness will help some people (especially younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But there are other (further) steps you can also take:
- Keep your volume in check: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone might let you know. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be calculated with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when dangerous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Use ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any type of musical show or event), wear hearing protection. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional harm. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In a lot of ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more extreme hearing loss later on 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 little bit sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for people who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Part of the solution is hearing protection.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a good idea.