It’s cliche, but when we’re young, we feel invincible. There’s a sense that the stuff we do to our bodies in our teens and twenties won’t have much of an impact on us for the rest of our lives, and sadly, that’s just not the case. Young musicians can get into lots of bad habits early on in their careers, but not wearing earplugs is something that can lead to consequences that can not only negatively impact their careers, but can also cause lifelong health problems.
One loud show or rehearsal is enough to damage your hearing
If you play music, work at a venue, or have never touched an instrument in your life but go to concerts every now and then, you should be wearing earplugs to protect your ears in live music settings. Many believe that major hearing issues are caused only after years of prolonged exposure to loud sounds, but it actually only takes one short experience to damage your hearing. If you’ve ever gotten home after playing a concert and heard a ringing in your ears, then you’ve already done some damage. Some occasions are so loud that they cause damage to a person’s “normal hearing,” which impacts things like interpreting speech and being able to hear background noise.
Keep in mind, these are just single occasions. If your hearing can be permanently damaged after just one night, imagine what years of not wearing earplugs can do. And while the prospect of not being able to hear sounds should be worrying, every musician should be terrified about losing their ability to hear music.
So why aren’t they?
Why earplugs aren’t talked about enough in the music industry
Many people neglect their health and well-being on a regular basis, and musicians are no exception. But the reasons why many of us who make music seriously don’t wear earplugs regularly might go deeper than run-of-the-mill laziness. Youth, vibrancy, and fearlessness are heavily valued and associated with making music, and the expectations these characteristics bring come with a lot of baggage. Earplugs are a form of a protection, and you don’t need protection unless you’re vulnerable to something. Musicians and fans alike might shy away from earplugs because it means that they’re not immortal and are impervious to risks, even though the music they’re making/listening to might make them feel like that. Earplugs aren’t fun in the way most things surrounding the live music experience is, which doesn’t help matters. But the extremely minor, un-cool act of making sure you wear earplugs to shows and rehearsals is nothing compared to a potential lifetime of music-related hearing issues.
Help yourself and your fans
The quicker you make wearing earplugs a habit, the easier it will be to protect your hearing. Pack some with your music equipment to make them easily accessible for rehearsals and shows. And if your band plays loud music, one of the best things you can do for your fans is to give them free earplugs at your merch booth.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.