Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

When your favorite tune comes on the radio, do you find yourself cranking up the volume? Lots of people do that. When you pump up the music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s fun. But, here’s the thing: there can also be appreciable harm done.

In the past we weren’t aware of the relationship between hearing loss and music. Volume is the biggest issue(this is in regards to how many times each day you listen and how extreme the volume is). And many musicians are rethinking how they approach coping with the volume of their music.

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 couldn’t hear any of the music he composed (except in his head). There’s even one story about how the composer was conducting one of his symphonies and had to be turned around at the end of the performance because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the audience.

Beethoven is definitely not the only example of hearing issues in musicians. 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 seem remarkably similar. Being a musician means spending nearly every day stuck between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. Significant damage including tinnitus and hearing loss will eventually 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, we all know you’re a rock star in terms of personality), you may have a difficult time relating this to your personal worries. You don’t have millions of cheering fans screaming at you (usually). And you’re not standing near a wall of amplifiers.

But your favorite playlist and a pair of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. It’s become easy for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.

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

So When You’re Listening to Music, How Can You Safeguard 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). Raising awareness will help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also should take some other steps too:

  • Download a volume-monitoring app: You are probably not aware of the actual volume of a live concert. It can be beneficial to download one of a few free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. This will help you monitor what’s dangerous and isn’t.
  • Keep your volume in check: Many modern smartphones will let you know when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. You should adhere to these warnings if you value your long-term hearing.
  • Use ear protection: When you attend a rock concert (or any type of musical event or show), wear earplugs. Your experience won’t be diminished by using ear protection. But your ears will be protected from additional damage. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what most of your favorite musicians are doing.).

Limit Exposure

It’s rather simple math: you will have more significant hearing loss in the future the more you put your hearing at risk. Eric Clapton, for instance, has entirely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a little bit sooner.

Decreasing exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. That can be difficult for individuals who work around live music. Part of the strategy is ear protection.

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

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