HEARING TIPS

Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning up the volume? Many people do that. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the music. And it’s something you can really enjoy. But, here’s the situation: there can also be considerable harm done.

In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between hearing loss and music. Volume is the biggest problem(this is based on how many times each day you listen and how extreme the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that many of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.

Musicians And Hearing Loss

It’s a pretty 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 had to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from 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 certainly 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 remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending almost every day stuck between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will ultimately be the result.

Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be an Issue

Being someone who isn’t a 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 connecting this to your personal concerns. You’re not playing for huge crowds. And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you daily.

But you do have a couple of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a real concern. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can experience 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 continuous sounds make this once cliche complaint into a significant cause for alarm.

So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard Your Hearing?

As with most scenarios admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But there are other (additional) steps you can take too:

  • Control your volume: Some modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding safe limits on volume. You should adhere to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.
  • Get a volume-checking app: You may not recognize just how loud a rock concert or music venue is. It can be useful to download one of several free apps that will provide you with a volume measurement of your environment. This can help you keep track of what’s dangerous and isn’t.
  • Use earplugs: When you go to a rock concert (or any kind of musical show or event), use earplugs. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear protection. But your ears will be protected from further 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.).

Limit Exposure

In many ways, the math here is rather simple: you will have more significant hearing loss later on the more often you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for example, has entirely lost his hearing. If he realized this would happen, he probably would have started protecting his ears sooner.

The best way to limit your damage, then, is to reduce your exposure. For musicians (and for people who happen to work around live music), that can be difficult. Ear protection might offer part of an answer there.

But everybody would be a little better off if we just turned down the volume to practical levels.

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