When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning up the volume? Many people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should know: it can also result in some significant harm.
The connection between hearing loss and music 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.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty 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 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 famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. Indeed, 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 Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. Noticeable damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you daily.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a real problem. Thanks to the advanced features of earbuds, just about everyone can experience life like a musician, flooded 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 once cliche complaint into a significant cause for alarm.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Hearing?
So, the first step is that we 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 jeopardy and need to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But you also should take some other steps too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be helpful to download one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Use earplugs: When you attend a rock concert (or any sort of musical event or show), wear hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be protected from further harm. (By the way, wearing ear protection is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Manage your volume: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. You should adhere to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
It’s pretty simple math: you will have more severe hearing loss in the future the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be challenging. Ear protection might provide part of a solution there.
But everybody would be a little better off if we just turned the volume down to reasonable levels.