Do you crank the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Many people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should understand: there can also be appreciable damage done.
In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between hearing loss and music. 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 many musicians are rethinking how they approach managing the volume of their music.
Hearing Loss And Musicians
It’s a pretty famous 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 may be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for turning their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
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 stuck between blaring speakers and booming crowds. Noticeable damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually be the result.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You may think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you every day.
But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And there’s the problem. It’s become easy for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a substantial problem.
So How Can You Protect Your Hearing When Listening to Music?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can take too:
- Use earplugs: When you go to a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), use earplugs. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will safeguard your ears from the most harmful of the damage. (Incidentally, 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).
- Manage your volume: If you go above a safe listening level, your smartphone might let you know. You should listen to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You may not realize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
It’s rather simple math: you will have more significant hearing loss later on the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
The best way to reduce your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. That can be difficult for people who work at a concert venue. Ear protection could provide part of an answer there.
But turning the volume down to reasonable levels is also a good idea.