Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

Do you turn up the volume when your favorite song comes on the radio? You aren’t on your own. There’s something intuitive about pumping up the music. And it’s enjoyable. But there’s one thing you should know: there can also be significant harm done.

The relationship between music and hearing loss is closer than we once thought. Volume is the biggest problem(both in terms of sound level 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 rather famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the pieces he created (except in his head). On one occasion he even needed 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 famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all famous for turning 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. Being a musician means spending just about every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and roaring crowds. Significant damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.

Not a Musician? Still an Issue

Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least in terms of the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you might have a hard time connecting this to your own worries. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you don’t have huge amplifiers behind you every day.

But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. Thanks to the advanced capabilities 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 constant sounds make this one time cliche grievance into a substantial cause for alarm.

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

So, the first step is that we 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 need to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But there are other (further) steps you can take too:

  • Manage your volume: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may let you know. You should adhere to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.
  • Wear ear protection: When you go to a rock concert (or any sort of musical event or show), wear earplugs. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear plugs. But your ears will be safeguarded from further harm. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).
  • Download a volume-checking app: You are probably not aware 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. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will be aware of it.

Limit Exposure

In a lot of ways, the math here is fairly straight forward: you will have more serious hearing loss later in life 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 begun 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 tricky. Part of the strategy is wearing ear protection.

But turning the volume down to sensible levels is also a smart idea.

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