When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning up the volume? You aren’t alone. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But, here’s the thing: it can also cause some significant harm.
In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between music and hearing loss. That has a lot to do with volume (both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). 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 well-known irony that, later in life, 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 needed to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause of his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven is certainly not the only instance of hearing problems in musicians. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at very loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma which the ears experience on a daily basis gradually brings about significant damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
You might think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not performing for huge crowds. 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 there’s the problem. Thanks to the contemporary features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can experience life like a musician, flooded by sound and music that are way too loud.
This one little thing can now become a substantial problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Ears?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s a problem (that’s usually the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). Raising awareness will help some people (especially younger, more naive people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also should take some further steps too:
- Get a volume-checking app: You may not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Use ear protection: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music show. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect your ears from the most harmful of the injury. (Incidentally, wearing ear protection is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Manage your volume: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re going beyond healthy limits on volume. You should listen to these safety measures if you care about your long-term hearing.
In many ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more extreme hearing loss in the future the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. That can be difficult for people who work around live music. Ear protection could provide part of a solution there.
But turning the volume down to practical levels is also a smart idea.