Do you turn the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t alone. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But there’s one thing you should know: there can also be significant damage done.
The relationship between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously concluded. Volume is the biggest issue(both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions each day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach managing the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions internally. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had 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 instance 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 own hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
As a non-rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everyone knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a difficult time relating this to your personal concerns. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming for you (usually). And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And there’s the concern. Thanks to the advanced capabilities of earbuds, nearly everyone can experience life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to damaging and constant sounds make this once cliche grievance into a substantial cause for concern.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Download a volume-checking app: You may not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be helpful to download one of a few 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.
- Control your volume: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone may alert you. You should listen to these safety measures if you value your long-term hearing.
- Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any kind of musical show or event), use hearing protection. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear plugs. But your ears will be protected from additional damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
In many ways, the math here is rather straight forward: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have begun protecting his ears sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But keeping the volume at practical levels is also a smart idea.