Do you crank up the volume when your favorite tune comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. When you pump up your music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But, here’s the situation: it can also result in some significant damage.
The connection between hearing loss and music is closer than we once concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions each day). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a rather well-known irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (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 at the end of the performance because he was unable to hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven is certainly not the only example of hearing problems in musicians. In more recent times quite a few musicians who are well known 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 sound remarkably similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will ultimately be the result.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be a Problem
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least in terms of the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a difficult time connecting this to your own concerns. You’re not performing for large crowds. And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And there’s the concern. It’s become easy for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to detrimental and constant sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a considerable cause for worry.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Hearing?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. People are putting their hearing in danger and need 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 are probably not aware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Keep your volume in check: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any type of musical show or event), wear earplugs. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most severe of the injury. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
It’s fairly simple math: 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 entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. That can be challenging for people who work at a concert venue. Ear protection could provide part of a solution there.
But everyone would be a lot better off if we simply turned down the volume to reasonable levels.