I think many of us can agree that the 70s and 80s were some of the best years for Rock and Roll. Bands like The Police, AC/DC, Genesis, U2 and so many others shaped modern music. After years of performing music for the masses these artists all suffer from hearing loss. That’s right, rock legends like Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Sting of The Police, Phil Collins of Genesis, Bono of U2, and other greats like Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Eric Clapton, all have hearing loss.
It makes sense why these artists would have some level of hearing loss. Some of the artists have been performing for over 40 years. That’s a long time to have such intense sound exposure. It’s unlikely that one wouldn’t suffer some kind of hearing damage. Earlier this year Huey Lewis and The News had to cancel the remainder of his 2018 tour dates do to Huey Lewis’s hearing loss. In a statement made on Twitter, “Although I can still hear a little, one on one, and on the phone, I can’t hear music well enough to sing.” After visits with several experts, doctors diagnosed him with Meniere’s disease, sadly making it impossible for him to keep preforming. The bright side to Huey Lewis’s story, and many like him, is with some treatment the effects of the disease can be lessened. With time he will regain some of his hearing, but it will never be restored fully. He has stated that he wants to focus on getting better in hopes to perform again soon.
A similar experience happened with AC/DC front man Brian Johnson. In 2016 he too had to step away from performing live due to his hearing loss. In a quote to Rolling Stones magazine he said that "onstage you don't have any defense" against what he called "that industrial noise. You're in a rock & roll band. What the… did you expect?" We had to clean up the language but he has a point. If you perform or even attend concerts regularly you are putting your hearing in jeopardy.
However, I don’t think this should be the standard. We shouldn’t be saying to ourselves “what did you expect.” Hearing loss happens to the best of us but there are things we can do to prevent and combat the effects of hearing loss. It’s estimated that 48 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss, from mild to severe. Sadly many people believe that hearing loss just comes with age, but this just isn’t true. This isn’t something we need to come to expect as we age. Phil Collins was quoted as saying, in reference to his hearing loss, “… it was my own doing, being irresponsible and thinking I was invincible… Yes, though it has been better lately. Take care and wear plugs.” Thank you Phil Collins, I couldn’t have said it better. The prevention is key. We just need to act.
Let’s break down some numbers. Your average rock concert is between 115 to 120 decibels. This is well within the range of dangerous sound levels for the human ear. At 15 minutes of listening to your favorite band or artist perform you will have reached your daily quota for sound exposure at that decibel level. I don’t know if you have been to a concert lately but I’ve never been to one that lasted 15 minutes. There is no way I’m paying the cost for a concert ticket to listen to 15 minutes of my favorite band perform. At best that’s three songs. I want hours of heart pounding music live music.
Now there are some steps you can take in protecting hearing. Listed below are some basics for protecting your hearing.
Avoid Excessive Noise.
Limit the Number of Loud Sounds in Your Life.
Wear Hearing Protection.
Remove Earwax Properly.
Have Your Hearing Tested.
Be a Quiet Enforcer.
Always have ear plugs on you.
We’re not saying to skip The Police sing out Roxanne or miss out on Eric Clapton shred on the guitar, just take the proper precautions. You wouldn’t ride your motorcycle without a helmet, right? Maybe you would, but you know the risks and they’re pretty hefty. Knowing the risks you face when dealing with loud noise is important. It’s not something we always think about. I know I don’t. If you wear a helmet on your motorcycle or take any precaution with any activity, do yourself a favor and do the same with your hearing. Go to the concert, stand next to the speakers, but don’t forget to wear earplugs. Even if you stand in the back, wear them. Better to be safe than sorry.
Hearing loss affects manifest in many different ways. It isn’t always a gun shot or explosion that destroys it. It can be a gradual loss over time due to a number of different factors. Or in Phil Collins case, very sudden and when you least expect it. He shared his hearing loss story and said, “At the time, I was recording in the states and had spent the day singing in the studio. Then I collected my daughter from school. We got home, had something to eat, and played a video game. Then suddenly my ear went ssssssshh. Within seconds my left hear simply closed down. As if I had been underwater. I tried to clear it by pinching my nose...” Due to Phil Collin's hearing loss he too had to quit touring. Lucky for all the Phil Collins fans of the world with his time off and some help from hearing and medical professionals he’s looking at performing again in the near future.
It’s not just the concerts that cause issues for us. On a daily basis it’s important to be on the watch for potential dangers. Loud appliances, loud TV shows, your car stereo. Remember to follow number 6 of the prevention list. Be a quiet enforcer. You probably hate sitting at a restaurant, trying to enjoy your dinner, dealing with some of the awful noises. The couple sitting next to you yelling, loud music, breaking dishes, and that constant roar of people talking. It’s not fun. Ask them to lower the volume on the music, politely ask the couple next to you to speak a little softer. Some sounds you won’t be able to avoid, but do what you can to limit the exposure to these noises. Your ears will thank you.
The important take away here is to do what our favorite rock legends have done and take action. I think most would look back and tell you to take action now. It’s easy, be aware of the prevention steps, and when you find yourself saying, “what” a little more than normal, seek a hearing professional. This is huge, hearing specialists and audiologists can help you manage your hearing. The ears are extremely important, we shouldn’t take the hearing we have for granted. Whether its music, the laughter of your kids or grandkids, hearing the birds sing, or going to loud rock concerts, protect your hearing. Not all of us think of hearing loss as something we will deal with, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. Do what you can to save your hearing so you can keep hearing the things you love.
CaptionCall is an ambassador for hearing health and an advocate for people with hearing loss. We encourage everyone to actively manage their hearing health through regular hearing evaluations and to seek early treatment when hearing loss is identified. We are obsessed with helping those with hearing loss stay socially engaged for a longer, happier, healthier life. To learn more about CaptionCall and how you can qualify for a no-cost CaptionCall phone, visit www.captioncall.com
Written By Christopher Frakes, Marketing Assistant