When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? You aren’t on your own. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can really take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should know: there can also be considerable damage done.
The relationship 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 each day). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a rather well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions internally. There’s even one story 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 definitely not the only example of hearing problems in musicians. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
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 that the ears experience every day gradually leads to noticeable damage: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming for you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that’s the problem. It’s become effortless for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to damaging and continuous sounds make this one time cliche grievance into a considerable cause for concern.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Protect Your Hearing?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also need to take some other steps too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be assessed with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. As a result, when dangerous levels are reached you will know it.
- Control your volume: If you go above a safe volume your smartphone may alert you. You should listen to these safety measures if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Wear earplugs: Use earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will safeguard your ears from the most harmful of the injury. (And don’t think that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
It’s rather simple math: you will have more serious hearing loss later in life the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have begun protecting his ears sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for people who happen to work at music venues), that can be challenging. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But keeping the volume at practical levels is also a good idea.