When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Lots of people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should know: there can also be considerable damage done.
The connection between hearing loss and music is closer than we once thought. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times each day you listen and how intense the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
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 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 when his performance was finished because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the audience.
Beethoven may be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at very 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 almost every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and booming crowds. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will ultimately be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You might think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And there’s the 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.
This one little thing can now become a substantial problem.
So How Can You Protect Your Ears When Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. Raising awareness will help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also need to take some other steps too:
- Wear earplugs: When you attend a rock concert (or any kind of musical event or show), wear hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from further 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.).
- Keep your volume under control: If you go above a safe listening level, your smartphone might alert you. You should adhere to these safety measures if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a live concert. Wherever you are, 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 dangerous levels are reached you will know it.
In a lot of ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more extreme hearing loss in the future the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have begun protecting his hearing sooner.
The best way to lessen your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work around live music), that can be challenging. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But everyone would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to sensible levels.