Do you turn up the volume when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s enjoyable. But, here’s the thing: it can also result in some considerable damage.
The connection between hearing loss and music is closer than we once thought. 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 it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a fairly 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). On one occasion he even needed to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from 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 definitely isn’t the last. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually 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 may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you daily.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real concern. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, just about everyone can experience life like a musician, flooded 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 Safeguard Your Hearing?
So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (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 there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Manage your volume: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
- Download a volume-checking app: You might not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to get one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of your environment. This will help you keep track of what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Wear earplugs: Put in earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear protection. But your ears will be protected from additional damage. (Incidentally, wearing ear protection is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In a lot of ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: 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. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work around live music), that can be difficult. Ear protection might offer part of a solution there.
But keeping the volume at sensible levels is also a smart idea.