When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking up the volume? You aren’t alone. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should know: there can also be significant harm done.
The relationship between music and hearing loss is closer than we once understood. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions each day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach coping with the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a rather well-known 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 so he could see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he surely isn’t the last. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming forward 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 large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
You may think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, just about everyone can experience life like a musician, flooded by sound and music that are way too loud.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to damaging and constant sounds make this once cliche complaint into a substantial cause for concern.
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 impressionable people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Get a volume-checking app: You might not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to get one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. In this way, when harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Wear earplugs: When you attend a rock concert (or any type of musical show or event), wear earplugs. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear plugs. But your ears will be protected from additional 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).
- Manage your volume: If you go above a safe listening level, 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 straight forward: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more significant your hearing loss could be later in life. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. For musicians (and for people who happen to work at music venues), that can be difficult. Ear protection may offer part of an answer there.
But keeping the volume at sensible levels is also a good idea.