When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Many people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should recognize: there can also be significant damage done.
In the past we weren’t informed about the relationship between music and hearing loss. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times each day you listen and how extreme the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions in his head. On one occasion he even had to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven may be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous 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 seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma which the ears experience every day eventually leads to noticeable harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still 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 huge amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And there’s the concern. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, just about 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 serious issue.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing While Listening to Music?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). Raising awareness will help some people (particularly younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also should take some further steps too:
- Keep your volume in check: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone might let you know. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
- Get a volume-checking app: You may not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be helpful to download one of a few free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. As a result, when dangerous levels are reached you will know it.
- Wear ear protection: Wear earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music event. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear protection. But your ears will be protected from further damage. (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).
In a lot of ways, the math here is rather simple: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
The best way to limit your damage, then, is to minimize your exposure. That can be difficult for people who work at a concert venue. Ear protection could provide part of a solution there.
But everyone would be a lot better off if we simply turned down the volume to sensible levels.