Do you turn the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. When you pump up your music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should recognize: it can also result in some significant harm.
The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we once concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a 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 fairly well-known irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions in his head. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had to be turned around when his performance was finished because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven is certainly not the only example of hearing problems in musicians. In more recent times lots of musicians who are well known for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. The trauma that the ears experience every day gradually leads to significant damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least in terms of the profession, everyone knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you may have a difficult time relating this to your personal worries. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that can be a real concern. Thanks to the contemporary capabilities of earbuds, nearly everyone can experience life like a musician, inundated by sound and music that are way too loud.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to damaging and constant sounds make this once cliche grievance into a substantial cause for alarm.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing While Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. People are putting their hearing in peril and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Control your volume: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You might not comprehend just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be beneficial to download one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. As a result, when harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Wear earplugs: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be protected from additional damage. (By the way, wearing ear protection is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
It’s rather simple math: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more extensive your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for instance, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for people who happen to work around live music), that can be challenging. Ear protection may provide part of an answer there.
But everyone would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.