Do you turn the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But there’s one thing you should know: it can also result in some considerable harm.
In the past we weren’t informed about the relationship between hearing loss and music. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times daily you listen and how intense the volume is). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach dealing with the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a fairly famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (except in his head). On one occasion he even had to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven is definitely not the only instance of hearing issues in musicians. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their own hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma that the ears experience every day gradually leads to noticeable harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not playing for huge crowds. And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you daily.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that’s the problem. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to harmful and constant sounds make this once cliche grievance into a considerable cause for worry.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. People are putting their hearing in peril and have to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Use ear protection: Use earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most severe of the injury. (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 unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be helpful to download one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. This will help you keep track of what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Control your volume: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may alert you. You should adhere to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
In many ways, the math here is rather simple: you will have more serious hearing loss later on the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. For musicians (and for people who happen to work around live music), that can be challenging. Ear protection might provide part of a solution there.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a good idea.