By Ashley Rodriguez
When going to see a live show, covering their ears is the last thing concertgoers might consider. Isn’t the whole point of a concert to listen to the band play?
Fans want to fully enjoy what they’re hearing, but being exposed to loud music for an extended period of time can have short and long term effects on their hearing.
Crowd members who are nearest to the stage during a show are likely affected the most, as they are closest to the amplifiers and sources of sound. Music photographers are also susceptible to damage when spending time in the photo pit–which is between the stage and the crowd and often directly in front of booming speakers.
BTR spoke with Shayne Hanley, NYC photographer and editor of the music site, Pancakes & Whiskey. Hanley tells BTR, “It is an unspoken rule to protect your hearing if you’re a photographer.”
Fans can become so caught up in the moment of seeing their favorite artist live that the volume becomes minimized. It’s also common for young people to feel more immersed in the experience without earplugs.
“It used to be a ‘badge of honor’ to say your ears were still ringing days after a show,” Hanley says “but in reality you’re just hurting your hearing.”
Musicians also know the importance of protecting their hearing. H2O and None More Black guitarist, Colin McGinniss, tells BTR that he wears earplugs in large arenas where sound is elevated, and suggests fans always wear plugs. At smaller venues, where the monitors aren’t great, he sometimes takes them out, due to the fact that he can’t hear the drums clearly.
McGinniss suggests fans use earplugs that can block out high frequency sounds, but still allow them to hear the bass. Doing so reduces short-lived tinnitus, otherwise known as the inevitable ringing in the ears after shows, says McGinniss.
Earplugs are one way to protect ears from loud sounds. Another option is to temporarily leave the area to give your ears a break. If listening to an MP3 player, turning down the volume and not exceeding one hour of listening are other effective ways of preventing hearing damage, according to Dr. Hamid Djalilian, Director of Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery at UC Irvine.
Research also suggests that consuming over-the-counter medications like aspirin can trigger or enhance the effects of loud music. Short-lived tinnitus can be more prominent when a medication is being used.
Nevertheless, it seems that young people today seem more knowledgeable about ear protection.
“I think more younger folks are starting to realize that wearing ear protection is important. I see more people wearing plugs now than I did 10 years ago,” ascertains Hanley.
Research shows that protecting your ears when near loud music could help prevent future hearing damage. Fans should take preventative steps to ensure that ear damage doesn’t occur, or is at least minimized, so they can rock out when they’re younger and take care when they’re older.
All photos by Ashley Rodriguez.