When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? You aren’t on your own. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the jam. And it’s enjoyable. But, here’s the thing: there can also be appreciable harm done.
The connection between hearing loss and music 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 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 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 of his audience because he couldn’t hear it.
Beethoven might be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he surely isn’t the last. In more recent times many musicians who are widely recognized for playing at very loud volumes are coming forth with their stories of hearing loss.
From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem remarkably similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma that the ears experience on a daily basis eventually results in significant harm: tinnitus and hearing loss.
Not a Musician? Still a Problem
You may think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this might not apply to you. You’re not playing for huge crowds. And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.
But you do have a couple of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And that’s the concern. Thanks to the advanced features of earbuds, just about everyone can enjoy life like a musician, flooded by sound and music that are way too loud.
The ease with which you can subject yourself to damaging and constant sounds make this once cliche complaint into a substantial cause for concern.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears While Listening to Music?
As with most scenarios admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness will help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also should take some further steps too:
- Download a volume-monitoring app: You may not recognize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be assessed with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.
- Wear earplugs: Put in earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music event. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear protection. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Keep your volume under control: Some modern smartphones will alert you when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. You should listen to these safety measures if you value your long-term hearing.
In a lot of ways, the math here is pretty straight forward: you will have more serious hearing loss later in life the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has completely lost his hearing. If he knew, he probably would have started protecting his hearing sooner.
The best way to minimize your damage, then, is to limit your exposure. For musicians (and for people who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Ear protection might offer part of an answer there.
But we all would be a little better off if we just turned the volume down to reasonable levels.