Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking the volume up? You aren’t alone. There’s something visceral about pumping up the music. And it’s fun. But there’s one thing you should recognize: there can also be considerable damage done.

The relationship between hearing loss and music is closer than we previously thought. Volume is the biggest problem(this is based on how many times per day you listen and how intense the volume is). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach managing the volume of their music.

Musicians And Hearing Loss

It’s a rather 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 created (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 famous example of the deaf musician, but he certainly 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 own hearing loss experiences.

From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly 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.

Not a Musician? Still a Problem

Being someone who isn’t a rock star (at least when it comes to the profession, everybody knows you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you could have a difficult time relating this to your own worries. You don’t have millions of adoring fans screaming for you (usually). And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you every day.

But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a serious concern. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, just about everyone can enjoy life like a musician, inundated by sound and music that are way too loud.

The ease with which you can expose yourself to damaging and continuous sounds make this once cliche complaint into a considerable cause for alarm.

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

So, the first step is that we admit there’s an issue (that’s kind of always the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). Raising awareness can help some people (particularly younger, more naive people) figure out that they’re putting their hearing in danger. But you also need to take some further steps too:

  • Keep your volume under control: Many modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
  • Wear ear protection: Wear earplugs when you go to a concert or any other live music show. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear protection. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional harm. (Incidentally, wearing ear protection is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
  • Get a volume-checking app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a live concert. Wherever you find yourself, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of several free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. This can help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.

Limit Exposure

In a lot of ways, the math here is quite simple: the more often you put your ears at an increased risk, the more significant your hearing loss later in life could be. Eric Clapton, as an example, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he begun wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.

Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to limit damage. That can be tricky for individuals who work at a concert venue. Part of the strategy is ear protection.

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

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