When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? Many people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But, here’s the situation: there can also be considerable damage done.
In the past we weren’t informed about the relationship between music and hearing loss. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound level and the number of listening sessions in a day). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly well-known 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 needed to be turned around when his performance was finished because he was unable to hear the thundering applause of the audience.
Beethoven is certainly not the only example of hearing problems in musicians. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending nearly every day stuck between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
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 may have a difficult time relating this to your own worries. You’re not playing for huge crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a serious 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 expose yourself to detrimental and continuous sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a considerable cause for concern.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Hearing While Listening to Music?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (particularly younger, more impressionable people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also should take some other steps too:
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any kind of musical event or show), use hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most harmful of the injury. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Keep your volume in check: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone may let you know. You should adhere to these safety measures if you value your long-term hearing.
- Get a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a live concert. It can be helpful to download one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. This will help you keep track of what’s dangerous and what’s not.
In a lot of ways, the math here is rather simple: you will have more extreme hearing loss later on the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. He probably wishes he started wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to minimize your exposure. That can be tough for people who work at a concert venue. Part of the solution is wearing hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a good idea.