When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking up the volume? Many people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should know: 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 in a day). And it’s one of the reasons that countless of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a rather famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions 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 might be the first and most famous 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 personal hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You might 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 adoring fans screaming for you (usually). 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 there’s the concern. Thanks to the contemporary features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can experience life like a musician, flooded by sound and music at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a serious problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
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 danger and have to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But you also need to take some other steps too:
- Control your volume: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. You should adhere to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Use earplugs: Wear earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But they will protect your ears from the most harmful of the damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You may not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to get one of a few free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of your environment. As a result, when harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
In many ways, the math here is quite straight forward: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Part of the solution is wearing ear protection.
But everyone would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.