When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Many people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But there’s one thing you should understand: there can also be significant harm done.
In the past we weren’t conscious of the relationship between music and hearing loss. Volume is the biggest issue(both in terms of sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And it’s one of the reasons that countless of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a fairly well-known irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions in his head. There’s even one narrative about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and needed to be turned around at the end of the performance because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the crowd.
Beethoven may be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In more recent times quite a few musicians who are well known 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 amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. Noticeable damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will ultimately be the result.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
You may think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you daily.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real concern. Thanks to the contemporary features of earbuds, nearly everyone can enjoy life like a musician, flooded by sound and music at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to detrimental and constant sounds make this once cliche complaint into a substantial cause for concern.
So How Can You Protect Your Ears While Listening to Music?
So, first we need to admit there’s a problem (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Manage your volume: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone may let you know. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a live concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be measured 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: When you go to a rock concert (or any type of musical show or event), wear earplugs. They won’t really lessen your experience. But they will protect 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 the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
It’s rather simple math: you will have more severe hearing loss later in life the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, 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 around live music), that can be challenging. Part of the strategy is hearing protection.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a good idea.