Do you turn the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Many people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s something you can really take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should recognize: there can also be significant damage done.
In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between hearing loss and music. That has a lot to do with volume (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 save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a pretty famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions in his head. On one occasion he even needed to be turned around to see the thunderous applause of his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day stuck between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. Noticeable damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will ultimately be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You might think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a real problem. It’s become easy for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a real issue.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing While Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But you also should take some other steps too:
- Get a volume-checking app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be calculated with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Wear ear protection: Use earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really lessen your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from further harm. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Keep your volume under control: If you go above a safe listening level, your smartphone may alert you. You should adhere to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.
It’s pretty simple math: you will have more extreme hearing loss later on the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be difficult for people who work at a concert venue. Ear protection may supply part of an answer there.
But everyone would be a lot better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.