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Musician protecting his hearing from hearing loss.

When your favorite song comes on the radio, do you find yourself turning the volume up? Lots of people do that. There’s something visceral about pumping up the jam. And it’s enjoyable. But, here’s the thing: there can also be significant damage done.

The connection between music and hearing loss is closer than we once understood. Volume is the biggest problem(this is based on how many times daily you listen and how excessive the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that lots of today’s musicians are changing their tune to protect their hearing.

Musicians And Hearing Loss

It’s a pretty well-known irony that, later in life, 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 needed to be turned around when his performance was finished because he couldn’t hear the thundering applause of the audience.

Beethoven might be the first and most well-known example of the deaf musician, but he certainly isn’t the last. In more recent times lots of musicians who are well known for playing at very loud volumes are coming forward with their stories of hearing loss.

From Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to will.i.am, the stories all sound amazingly similar. Being a musician means spending just about every day sandwiched between blaring speakers and deafening crowds. The trauma that the ears experience every day gradually leads to noticeable damage: tinnitus and hearing loss.

Even if You’re Not a Musician This Could Still be 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 hard time connecting this to your personal worries. You’re not performing for huge crowds. And you’re not standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.

But you do have a pair of earbuds and your chosen playlist. And there’s the concern. It’s become effortless for every single one of us to experience music like rock stars do, way too loud.

The ease with which you can expose yourself to detrimental and constant sounds make this one time cliche complaint into a substantial cause for worry.

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

As with most scenarios admitting that there’s an issue is the first step. Raising awareness can help some people (especially younger, more impressionable people) become aware that they’re putting their hearing in jeopardy. But you also should take some further steps too:

  • Keep your volume under control: Many modern smartphones will alert you when you’re exceeding healthy limits on volume. If you care about your long-term hearing, you should adhere to these warnings.
  • Get a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a live concert. Wherever you are, the volume of your environment can be measured with one of many free apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone. In this way, when harmful levels are reached you will be aware of it.
  • Use earplugs: When you go to a rock concert (or any sort of musical show or event), wear hearing protection. Your experience won’t be lessened by using ear protection. But your ears will be safeguarded from additional harm. (By the way, wearing earplugs is what the majority of your favorite musicians are currently doing to protect their hearing, so even the cool kids are doing it).

Limit Exposure

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

Limiting exposure, then, is the best way to reduce damage. For musicians (and for people who happen to work at music venues), that can be a challenge. Ear protection may provide part of an answer there.

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

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