BEING a musician is something that nearly all of us have aspired to at some point in our lives – it is a dream job for many. Who wouldn’t want to be up there on stage, rocking out in front of thirty thousand screaming fans? Or playing a mind-blowing violin solo in the Barbican? The thrill would be incomparable.
However, the one bad thing about being a musician is that you are put at a greater risk of hearing loss. It’s fairly obvious why this happens – even the “quieter” instruments can get pretty noisy, and you’re likely to be playing them for long stretches at a time. Look at The Who’s Pete Townshend, for example: his hearing loss started way back in ’67, when Keith Moon’s drum set famously exploded, and has only worsened over the years.
If you want any chance of remaining a decent musician, then you have to make sure you keep your ears in great shape. Yes, we know ol’ Beethoven was deaf, but… well, he was Beethoven, for crying out loud.
Here’s what causes hearing loss, and how you can prevent it happening to your own ears.
What Causes Hearing Damage?
Inside your ears are little hairs called cilia. These vibrate when sound waves hit them, relaying the signals to your brain and creating the sensation of sound. You only have a set number of these bad boys – when they’re gone, they’re gone.
When they get damaged, that’s when you start to lose your hearing. Prolonged exposure to loud noises, or even short exposure to very loud ones, can cause the cilia to bend permanently. The more exposure, the greater the damage, and there’s no coming back from it.
If you are worried that you’re exposing yourself to harmful volumes, the first thing to do is to start wearing earplugs. Then, you should go and see a trained audiologist for an examination; book a hearing test at Boots hearingcare and get checked out.
So How Loud Is Too Loud?
As you probably know, volume is measured in decibels, or dB. Prolonged exposure to any noise over 85 dB can damage your hearing, whilst anything over 120 dB can do Serious Damage. To put that into perspective, silence is 0 dB, a whisper is 30 dB, and a chainsaw is 120 dB.
Do you know what else comes in at 120 dB? A rock concert. Oh, and an iPod at max volume. So yes, these things can do some pretty major harm if you don’t watch out.
Unless you are exposed to some extremely loud sounds, hearing loss is a fairly gradual process. However, once you notice it, it’s usually already too late. Make sure you take precautions now, instead of leaving it.
Invest in a cheap pair of earplugs to block out the majority of the harmful noise. If you’re sticking to music long-term (good on you), you may want to consider a more expensive, specialist pair.
Look after your ears, and they’ll keep you hearing for many years to come. It’s that simple.