When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? You aren’t alone. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s something you can really take pleasure in. But there’s one thing you should know: it can also cause some appreciable damage.
The relationship between music and hearing loss is closer than we previously understood. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times a day you listen and how intense the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a rather well-known irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the music he composed (except in his head). On one occasion he even had to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause of his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven might be the first and most well-known 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 personal hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. 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 may not apply to you. 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 set of earbuds are things you do have. And there’s the concern. Thanks to the advanced capabilities of earbuds, nearly everyone can enjoy life like a musician, flooded by sound and music that are way too loud.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to detrimental and constant sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a significant cause for worry.
So How Can You Protect Your Ears When Listening to Music?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Download a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be beneficial to download one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. This will help you keep track of what’s dangerous and what’s not.
- Use earplugs: When you attend a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), use hearing protection. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will protect your ears from the worst of the damage. (Incidentally, wearing earplugs is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Keep your volume in check: Some modern smartphones will let you know when you’re going beyond healthy limits on volume. If you value your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
It’s pretty simple math: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, as an example, has entirely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have begun protecting his ears sooner.
Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be challenging for people who work around live music. Ear protection could offer part of a solution there.
But all of us would be a little better off if we simply turned the volume down to practical levels.