Do you turn the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? Many people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But, here’s the thing: there can also be significant damage done.
The relationship between hearing loss and music is closer than we previously understood. Volume is the biggest issue(both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions each day). And it’s one of the reasons that countless of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.
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 music he composed (except in his head). There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had 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 famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In more recent times many musicians who are well known for playing at very loud volumes are coming forward with their stories of hearing loss.
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. The trauma which the ears experience every day gradually leads to noticeable harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least in terms of the profession, we all know you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a hard time relating this to your personal worries. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. It’s become effortless for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to damaging and continuous sounds make this once cliche grievance into a considerable cause for alarm.
So How Can You Protect Your Ears When Listening to Music?
So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). People are putting their hearing in peril and need to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Download a volume-checking app: You may not recognize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be beneficial to download one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of your environment. This will help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Wear ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), wear earplugs. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will safeguard your ears from the most severe of the damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Control your volume: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. You should adhere to these safety measures if you care about your long-term hearing.
In a lot of ways, the math here is pretty straight forward: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss could be later in life. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have started protecting his hearing sooner.
The best way to minimize 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. Ear protection might offer part of a solution there.
But turning the volume down to practical levels is also a good idea.