When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? Lots of people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s something you can truly enjoy. But there’s one thing you should recognize: it can also result in some significant harm.
The relationship between hearing loss and music is closer than we previously understood. Volume is the biggest problem(both in terms of sound intensity 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, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions in his head. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had to be turned around when his performance was finished because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the audience.
Beethoven is definitely not the only instance of hearing problems in musicians. In more recent times quite a few musicians who are widely recognized for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and booming crowds. The trauma that the ears experience every day eventually brings about significant damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you may have a hard 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 pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that’s the concern. It’s become easy for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a real issue.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears While Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But you also should take some other steps too:
- Download a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be helpful to get one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. This can help you keep track of what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Keep your volume in check: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Use earplugs: When you go to a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), use earplugs. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But they will safeguard your ears from the most harmful of the damage. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
In a lot of ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more severe hearing loss in the future the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
The best way to lessen your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Ear protection could provide part of a solution there.
But all of us would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.