Do you turn the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Many people do that. When you pump up your music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can really take pleasure in. But, here’s the thing: it can also cause some significant harm.
The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (this is based on how many times a day you listen and how extreme the volume is). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach dealing with the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (except in his head). There’s even one story about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and needed to be turned around when his performance was finished because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven might be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Noticeable damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will ultimately be the result.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a set of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that’s the problem. It’s become effortless for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a real issue.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (that’s usually the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). People are putting their hearing in peril and have to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can take too:
- Get a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be beneficial to download one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Keep your volume under control: Some modern smartphones will alert you when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any kind of musical show or event), use hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from further 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).
It’s pretty simple math: you will have more extreme hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, 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 around live music), that can be a challenge. Part of the solution is hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a good idea.