Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

Do you turn the volume up when your favorite tune comes on the radio? Lots of people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the jam. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should know: it can also cause some appreciable harm.

The relationship between music and hearing loss is closer than we once concluded. Volume is the biggest concern(both when it comes to sound intensity and the number of listening sessions in a day). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach managing the volume of their music.

Musicians And Hearing Loss

It’s a fairly well-known irony that, later in life, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces 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 definitely isn’t the last. Indeed, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–are now going public with their personal hearing loss experiences.

From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all seem amazingly similar. Musicians spend a large amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. Noticeable damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will ultimately be the result.

Not a Musician? Still an Issue

As a non-rock star (at least in terms of the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a difficult time connecting this to your own worries. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.

But you do have a couple of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that’s the problem. Thanks to the advanced features of earbuds, pretty much everyone can enjoy life like a musician, flooded by sound and music at way too high a volume.

This one little thing can now become a substantial issue.

So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears When Listening to Music?

So, first we need to admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s especially true in this case). People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (particularly more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (additional) steps you can take too:

  • Control your volume: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re going beyond safe limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
  • Get a volume-checking app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be calculated with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and what’s not.
  • Wear ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), use hearing protection. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear protection. But your ears will be safeguarded from further damage. (And don’t think 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 serious hearing loss later in life the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, as an example, has entirely lost his hearing. He probably wishes he started wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.

Limiting 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 could offer part of a solution there.

But keeping the volume at practical levels is also a smart idea.

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