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 music. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should understand: it can also cause some appreciable harm.
In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between hearing loss and music. That has a lot to do with volume (this is in regards to how many times daily you listen and how extreme the volume is). 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 pretty well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He was only able to hear his compositions internally. On one occasion he even needed to be turned around so he could see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
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 many musicians who are well known for playing at very loud volumes are coming out with their stories of hearing loss.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day stuck between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. The trauma which the ears experience on a daily basis eventually leads to significant harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
As a non-rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everyone knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a hard time relating this to your own concerns. You’re not performing for huge crowds. 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 that can be a serious problem. Thanks to the contemporary capabilities of earbuds, pretty much everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music at way too high a volume.
This one little thing can now become a real problem.
So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Ears?
So, the first step is that we admit there’s a problem (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). Raising awareness will help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But there are other (further) steps you can take too:
- Control your volume: Many modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. You should listen to these warnings if you care about your long-term hearing.
- Wear ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any type of musical show or event), use hearing protection. They won’t really lessen your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from further harm. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You might not recognize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to download one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of your environment. In this way, when dangerous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
It’s rather simple math: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.
Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work around live music), that can be a challenge. Ear protection may offer part of an answer there.
But keeping the volume at reasonable levels is also a good idea.