Do you crank up the volume when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Many people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can truly enjoy. But, here’s the situation: it can also result in some significant harm.
In the past we weren’t informed about 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 lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions internally. On one occasion he even needed to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven is definitely not the only example of hearing problems in musicians. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at very loud volumes are coming forth with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time relating this to your personal concerns. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you daily.
But you do have a set of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a real problem. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a serious issue.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Ears?
As with most situations admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more naive people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also need to take some further steps too:
- Control your volume: Many 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.
- Get a volume-checking app: You may not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be calculated with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. This will help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
- Use earplugs: Use earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most harmful of the damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
In many ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more significant hearing loss later on the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be tricky. Ear protection may provide part of an answer there.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a smart idea.