Hearing Health Blog

Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

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

In the past we weren’t familiar with the relationship between music and hearing loss. Volume is the biggest problem(this is based on how many times per day you listen and how extreme the volume is). 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, 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 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 surely isn’t the last. In more recent times quite a few musicians who are well known for playing at extremely loud volumes are coming forth with their stories of hearing loss.

From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time dealing with crowd noise and loud speakers. Noticeable damage including hearing loss and tinnitus will eventually be the result.

Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be an Issue

You might think that because you’re not personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.

But you do have a couple of earbuds and your favorite playlist. And that can be a real problem. Thanks to the modern features of earbuds, pretty much 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 harmful and constant sounds make this once cliche grievance into a substantial cause for concern.

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

So, first we need to admit there’s a problem (that’s usually the first step, but it’s particularly true in this case). People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But you also should take some other steps too:

  • Download a volume-checking app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a live concert. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be assessed with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. As a result, when harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
  • Wear earplugs: Wear earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music show. They won’t really lessen your experience. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional damage. (Incidentally, wearing ear protection is what most of your favorite musicians are currently doing to safeguard their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).
  • Manage your volume: If you exceed a safe volume your smartphone may alert you. You should listen to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.

Limit Exposure

It’s pretty simple math: you will have more extreme hearing loss in the future 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.

Reducing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for individuals who happen to work at music venues), that can be tricky. Part of the solution is hearing protection.

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

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