Do you crank the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. There’s something visceral about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can truly take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should know: it can also result in some considerable damage.
The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously concluded. That has a lot to do with volume (both when it comes to sound level 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 famous irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (except 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 may be the first and most famous example of the deaf musician, but he surely isn’t the last. Indeed, 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 Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day stuck between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. The trauma that the ears experience on a daily basis gradually results in significant harm: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Not a Musician? Still an Issue
As a non-rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, we all know you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time connecting this to your own worries. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And that’s the concern. 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 substantial problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Ears?
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). People are putting their hearing in danger and need to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can also take:
- Download 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 provide you with a volume measurement of the space you’re in. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Keep your volume under control: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone might alert you. You should listen to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.
- Use earplugs: When you attend a rock concert (or any type of musical event or show), use hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional harm. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
In many ways, the math here is pretty straight forward: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. That can be challenging for individuals who work at a concert venue. Ear protection may offer part of a solution there.
But everybody would be a lot better off if we just turned down the volume to reasonable levels.