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Will Listening to Music Damage My Ears?

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Can I do anything with my loudspeakers to hear better and to protect myself from further hearing loss?

Loudspeakers do not send all sounds out equally. Typically the low pitched bass notes emanate from all parts of the loudspeaker and are equally loud from the back, front, top and sides. However, the higher pitched notes come out almost like a laser beam, in a straight line. If the loudspeakers can be tilted to aim towards your ears, you will hear a flatter, “more true” sound. And, more importantly, if the loudspeaker is aimed at your ears, the overall volume control level will be lower. In this way, even though the music will sound as loud, it will be less intense. That means it will be less damaging. Intensity is what causes hearing loss, whereas loudness is simply your impression of the sound. Some researchers suggest elevating the loudspeakers, and this can be useful, but be careful. Some loudspeakers are designed to be left on the floor. Check with the manufacturer or retailer before you elevate loud speakers to see if this would be a problem.

I listen to my MP-3 player at about half volume. Is this level OK?

Well, lets find out. We know that MP-3 players generate about 85 decibels at about 1/3 volume control. Many MP-3 players yield about 95 decibels at half volume. Let’s do some math— 85 dB for 40 hours, is the same as 88 dB for 20 hours, which is the same as 91 dB for 10 hours, and this is the same as 94 dB for 5 hours each week. Therefore you can listen to your MP-3 player safely at one half volume for about 5 hours each week. If your favorite song comes on, turn up the volume and enjoy, but be sure to turn it back down after.

I understand that rock music can be damaging to my hearing, but I can’t believe that Mozart or Beethoven can be bad for me.

Believe it or not, but Classical music — or specifically playing classical music — can be more damaging than rock music. Research has shown that about 30% of rock musicians have a hearing loss, and about 52% of classical musicians suffer from this problem. The main difference is that classical musicians rehearse, perform, and teach more hours each week than typical rock musicians and classical musicians  tend to be clustered closer together than rock musicians. So even though the peak sound levels in a rock band may be higher than in an orchestra, the total weekly dosage of a classical musician is greater.

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All information is provided in the interests of Hearing Health education and is of a general nature. In all cases you should consult your doctor or other allied health professional for advice regarding your individual circumstances. 

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