Do you crank the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? You aren’t alone. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should understand: there can also be appreciable harm done.
In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between music and hearing loss. Volume is the biggest problem(both when it comes to sound level 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, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He could only hear his compositions in his head. On one occasion he even needed to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause from his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven is certainly not the only instance of hearing issues in musicians. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their own hearing loss experiences.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending nearly every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. The trauma which the ears experience every day gradually leads to noticeable harm: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be an Issue
You might 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 at you (usually). And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.
But you do have a set of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a serious problem. It’s become easy for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a serious problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Hearing?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also need to take some further steps too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a live concert. It can be useful to get one of a few free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. In this way, when harmful levels are reached you will know it.
- Wear earplugs: When you go to a rock concert (or any kind of musical show or event), use earplugs. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be protected from further harm. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Keep your volume under control: Many modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. If you value your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
In a lot of ways, the math here is quite straight forward: you will have more significant hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has entirely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be difficult for people who work around live music. Part of the strategy is ear protection.
But all of us would be a lot better off if we simply turned the volume down to practical levels.