Do you crank up the volume when your favorite tune comes on the radio? You aren’t alone. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But, here’s the situation: there can also be appreciable damage done.
In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between music and hearing loss. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach dealing with 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 couldn’t hear any of the music 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 definitely not the only instance of hearing problems in musicians. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending nearly every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and booming crowds. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will ultimately be the result.
Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be a Problem
You might think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a set of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that’s the problem. Thanks to the advanced features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can experience life like a musician, inundated by sound and music that are way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a substantial issue.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Hearing?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s a problem (that’s usually the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But you also need to take some other steps too:
- Get a volume-checking app: You might not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to download one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Keep your volume under control: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. If you value your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
- Use earplugs: Put in earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the worst of the damage. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In many ways, the math here is quite simple: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be difficult for people who work around live music. Part of the solution is wearing hearing protection.
But keeping the volume at sensible levels is also a smart idea.