When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Lots of people do that. When you pump up your music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But, here’s the situation: there can also be considerable damage done.
The relationship between hearing loss and music is closer than we once thought. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach coping with the volume of their music.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a pretty famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions internally. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and needed to be turned around at the end of the performance because he was unable to hear the thundering applause of the audience.
Beethoven is definitely not the only example of hearing issues in musicians. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at very loud volumes are coming forth with their stories of hearing loss.
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. The trauma which the ears experience on a daily basis eventually brings about noticeable damage: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be a Problem
You might think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not performing for large crowds. And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that’s the problem. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music that are way too loud.
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 When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness will help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Keep your volume in check: If you go above a safe listening level, your smartphone might let you know. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any type of musical event or show), wear hearing protection. They won’t really lessen your experience. But your ears will be protected from further 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).
- Get a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
In a lot of ways, the math here is rather straight forward: you will have more serious hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have begun protecting his hearing sooner.
The best way to minimize your damage, then, is to minimize your exposure. That can be challenging for individuals who work around live music. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to sensible levels is also a smart idea.