When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning up the volume? You aren’t alone. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should recognize: there can also be significant harm done.
In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between music and hearing loss. Volume is the biggest issue(both in terms of sound level 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 protect their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly 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 couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the audience.
Beethoven might be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he definitely isn’t the last. In more recent times lots of musicians who are well known for playing at very loud volumes are coming forward with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma that the ears experience every day eventually brings about noticeable damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
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 hard time relating this to your own worries. You’re not performing for large crowds. And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that’s the problem. Thanks to the contemporary features of earbuds, just about everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a real problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. People are putting their hearing in danger and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Control your volume: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Wear ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any type of musical event or show), wear earplugs. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most severe of the damage. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably not aware 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 harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
In many ways, the math here is pretty simple: you will have more serious hearing loss later in life the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely 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 at music venues), that can be difficult. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But everyone would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to practical levels.