Do you crank up the volume when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But, here’s the thing: it can also result in some considerable damage.
In the past we weren’t conscious of 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 many musicians are rethinking how they approach managing the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a fairly famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the music he created (except in his head). On one occasion he even had to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause of his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven might be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their own hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma that the ears experience on a daily basis eventually leads to significant damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
You might think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not playing for huge crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you daily.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a serious concern. Thanks to the modern capabilities 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 expose yourself to harmful and continuous sounds make this once cliche complaint into a considerable cause for worry.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears When Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. People are putting their hearing in danger and have to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Use earplugs: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear plugs. But they will protect your ears from the most severe of the injury. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Control your volume: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may let you know. You should listen to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Download 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 several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
In many ways, the math here is rather simple: you will have more serious hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have begun protecting his ears sooner.
The best way to minimize your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. That can be challenging for people who work at a concert venue. Part of the strategy is ear protection.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a good idea.