Do you turn up the volume when your favorite song comes on the radio? Many people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should recognize: there can also be appreciable damage done.
In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between hearing loss and music. 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 pretty well-known irony that, when he got older, 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 needed to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven is certainly not the only example of hearing issues in musicians. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for cranking 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 sound amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and booming crowds. The trauma which the ears experience on a daily basis eventually results in significant harm: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, we all know you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time connecting this to your personal concerns. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And there’s the concern. Thanks to the advanced capabilities of earbuds, just about everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to detrimental and continuous sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a considerable cause for worry.
So How Can You Protect Your Ears When Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. 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 also take:
- Download a volume-checking app: You may not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when dangerous levels are reached you will know it.
- Keep your volume in check: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. You should listen to these safety measures if you care about your long-term hearing.
- 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 protection. But they will protect your ears from the most severe of the damage. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In many ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more substantial your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be tough for individuals who work around live music. Part of the strategy is ear protection.
But all of us would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to practical levels.