Hearing Loss: Doctors Point Out at Health Issues Caused by Loud Music

If you avoid earplugs, chances are you'll suffer from tinnitus.

Ultimate Guitar

Although many snub the topic as overblown, the matter of hearing issues caused by loud music is still very much present among the fans of live concerts and those circulating in such environments.

As a matter of fact, the latest Pitchfork report strongly suggests that by not using proper protection, chances are that passionate concert-goers will suffer from tinnitus, a medical condition resulting in constant ear ringing.

"A few months ago while photographing a concert in Montreal, I saw something I'd never seen at a show before: audience members covering their ears," the aforementioned Molly Beauchemin feature kicks off. "That image came back to me a little while later, when Grimes revealed her struggle with tinnitus and tweeted that the ringing in her ears was so loud she couldn't sleep.

"I thought of it again when I read an interview with Zach Hill of Death Grips, in which he mentioned the ear blockage he experienced as a result of lifelong exposure to loud music. Then I came across a story about a music fan who killed himself over chronic hearing damage incurred at a concert. And another. And then, eight others - before unearthing a jarring world of message board threads dedicated to suicidal thoughts that result from tinnitus."

As often pointed out, tinnitus is not a disease, but a neurological issue. It is also permanent, as the cell damage can't be repaired. At the moment, about 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, 2 million of which are unable to function normally due to severe ringing noise.

The report further notes that average shows at Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn range from 98db to 115db, which is louder than a power drill and can even result in hearing loss at sustained exposure.

As an obvious solution, many point at earplugs. But there's even more of those who insist that earplugs are a buzz-killer, as they block some of the crucial frequencies for enjoying the concert.

According to the same source, this is not entirely true. As audio expert Nick Cageao stresses, earplugs can even benefit the experience if properly worn. The quality of the plugs plays an important role. Top-notch custom models are made of silicone and by taking the impression of one's ear, filtering the frequencies in much more effective manner.

"It seems like the largest resistance to earplugs is cultural," the report concludes. "Our social climate relegates earplugs to the same category as sunscreen and contraceptives - proactive measures that are easily mocked only because we secretly know how important they are."

Do you think we should wear earplugs at concerts? Share your thoughts in the comments.

63 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "Our social climate relegates earplugs to the same category as sunscreen and contraceptives" Yes, I frequently refer to earplugs as "the condoms for our ears"
    link no1
    I thought it pretty obvious that loud music is damaging... I thought it would at least be obvious to people on a guitar based website.
    As a tinnitus sufferer myself I emplore everyone wear them at concert, rehersals, clubs. I wish I had. Now I can't sleep properly at nights and I suffer from anxiety and depression.
    Paul Stanley, whether you like him or not is not the point, has been talking about this issue quite a lot.
    He would definitely take it more seriously too, since he was born deaf in one ear. He can't risk anything.
    I wear earplugs every time I turn on my amp. If you're a musician, why would you ever put your ears at risk? It's so simple.
    I [b] [i] always wear closed back headphones when I'm running an amp (especially a bass amp) because I get better monitoring anyway
    I was always that ignorant dummy who believed music is best enjoyed at loud volumes and I never wore any ear protection. Now, after about a decade of being a musician, going to concerts, and listening to music loud through headphones, I've developed mild tinnitus in both ears from not wearing any protection. I hear a constant low-pitch humming noise, only noticeable in silence, but it's there. Luckily I caught it in time before it got real bad and I now only listen to music at low volumes and wear ear plugs whenever I'm at a concert or playing guitar. I still agree that music is most enjoyed being played loud, but that extra enjoyment is not worth losing your hearing over, especially if you're a musician. You only get one set of ears, best to conserve them as best you can.
    I have high frequency tinnitus in my right ear from playing too much metal right next to my drummer drilling into his crash cymbals constantly. Wear ear protection and stand away from your drummer if you can lol
    link no1
    I thought it pretty obvious that loud music is damaging... I thought it would at least be obvious to people on a guitar based website.
    I suffer from Tinnitus; I have done for 5 years or so. Anyway...my experience....When I developed tinnitus I went to see a specialist and I specifically asked him if listening to 'loud' music and attending gigs regularly contributed to my tinnitus. He laughed and asked me how many gigs and for how long do I listen to music. To cut this short..he told me I would have to attend a gig every day, without ear protection for a number of months. In otherwords sustained noise exposure at gig levels, day in and day out. My one gig a month (maximum) would not result in this. He also went onto to say that Healthcare specialists are not at all certain what causes Tinnitus. In my case he went onto say that I'm also suffering from genetic hearing loss anyway so my tinnitus could be caused by that. In short they didn't know. He told me to keep on enjoying myself but keep it semsible just in case! I use ear plugs now most times and have cut back on gigs.
    Dark Wall Here
    I also have Tinnitus and have done since the age of around 5 when one day i came home from school and it was just there. It was absolute torture for about 12-13 years and then i started listening to music properly and since then i can see that my hearing has actually improved, i don't notice the ringing as much, and i have also musically developed my ear in the sense that i can tell notes and what pickups something is being played on. When you first develop tinnitus it really is no laughing matter but after a while ( a long f*cking while for me) you eventually deal with it and realise it is never gonna go. It really is one of the worst and most horrible medical conditions which is extremely under researched and still very little is know about causes other than it is a result of loud noise for a sustained period of time, and there is also no way to cure it at all.
    23 years ago I was warned, I didn't listen I wish I would have. I am very thankful that my damage is only a minor annoyance and not some of the horror stories you hear.
    I always bring my earplugs to any concert I go to and use them when I think the band's too loud. Still think concerts should be loud, but you still feel the punch when wearing earplugs.
    I wore earplugs to the last concert I went to. The one before that the ringing in my ears was so bad I couldn't sleep. Earplugs helped hugely. I think it even made it sound better, got rid of the excess noise so more music was heard. Many people came up and told me they wished they had thought of it. Very much worth it, does't ruin the show one bit.
    if only i knew this earlier its obviously a better option than having that constant ringing sound inside my head.. for the rest of my goddarn life
    i wish they would just turn it down. i can't even hear the music properly when even the bass drum alone is straining my hearing.
    I have earplugs that cost me €120. Totally worth it. It's not even the hearing damage I bought them for so much as the fact that everything sounds shite at a volume that high. I'd prefer looking silly and being able to hear the music correctly to looking normal and only hearing a shrill noise.
    From the day I got my first CD player (the kind that skipped every 5 seconds unless you sat perfectly still...) until I was about 22 I loved really loud music. My earphones were almost always on full blast, put subwoofers in all my cars, and had custom systems in all of them except my current car. I've been lucky when it comes to tinnitus; only a short ringing here and there but nothing that doesn't go away within a few seconds. What's happening to me is I'm starting to go deaf in my right ear and my left is not as "sharp" as it used to be. I'm 27 and it's embarrassing when I have to ask someone to repeat something a few times so I can understand it. I know for a fact (Several doctors) that it's because of the volume I liked my music at. What I found recently was that noise-canceling earphones at a moderate volume sound better than anything painfully loud.
    I am always bringing earplugs whenever I attend a gig. People just don't get it. Some are simply not well informed and others think it looks ridiculous (seriously, I have been told multiple times : "Why are you putting these things in your ears? It looks awful") Do you prefer not spending ~30$ for a good pair of earplugs or do you prefer getting deaf instead? You won't be able to buy a new pair of ears in the future. Last but not least, with decent earplugs, audio quality won't be worse, it will simply be quieter.
    I always use earplugs now, though it's something not everyone accepts unfortunately... While at a Trivium show, in the pit a guy near me saw them and pulled them out and threw them, saying "mate, you don't need that shit!" I was furious, but not much I could have done about him. Good thing they were cheap ones...
    Flying Afros
    So he jammed his fingers into your ears basically... You could have easily extracted revenge on him via the pit.
    I always wear earplugs, my friends always laugh at me, we'll see who's laughing later on haha.
    Yeah, in the band I joined my ears were pretty bad when rehearsing for a while there but I felt weird putting ear plugs in as no one else was. Now I've just bitten the bullet and started putting them in and the more I'm doing it the less weird it feels. I should probably start doing it at concerts
    Crazy Redd
    Very good article with a subject that should be covered more on UG. Just invest in your ears, buy fitting earplugs with dB filters. It costs a lot, but it's worth the money. Just read the comments of people who already have tinnitus.
    I'll risk it.
    edit: Yeah that's pretty stupid to say. As a musician, your ears are one of your biggest assets, why risk it right?
    I have a hard time keeping any kind of protection in my ears just because of the dancing around and stuff. I haven't found any kind that works
    Is it worth the risk, really? I have extremely loud tinnitus, it's something I've had all my life, and it just keeps on getting louder as I get older. It's a constant irritation, it feels like there's a never-ending pandemonium inside my head. All I'm saying is just that don't risk it, man. I promise, you will regret it. And there's no ctrl + z when it comes to health.
    The best solution is to actually lower volume levels a bit at venues, or even regulate it. I actually find volumes that are too loud will ruin the sound at live concerts because everything becomes muddled and you can't really hear any of the instruments clearly whatsoever...unless you're ie: sitting in the rafters of an area
    Tell you what. If you don't wanna wear earplugs to shows (I hate it because they cut out so much of the sound), either invest in some Hi-Fidelity earplugs that sound engineers use, or go the cheap route and use cotton balls. Seriously. Cotton stuffed in your ear brings the volume down but doesn't make it sound like you're underwater. I tried it years ago and haven't gone back to earplugs.
    I recently picked up some high quality ear plugs that reduce impact noise. I had never used ear plugs before, but figured that I should because I was going to two concerts in a week. I will never go to a concert without them now. My ears felt the best they ever had after concert when I used them. They weren't uncomfortable and the music still sounded great, so I don't see the point in risking it.
    Etymotic makes great earphones/plugs for just about everything. I have a set that's specifically for concert going and another for when rehearsing
    Don't use cotton balls! Some of the cotton can make its way through your ear canal and cause serious infections. Trust me, if you've ever had any disease concerning your ears, you'll try everything possible to prevent it. Good earplugs cost you around 180 bucks. If music (whether making it yourself, excessive listening or being at concerts) is your life, this investment should definately be worth it. Plus, these good earplugs don't cut frequencies but lower the overall dB level, so you still get a nice sound.
    before I looked at the paycheck which said $5932, I have faith that my cousin had been trully receiving money in their spare time on their laptop.. there sisters roommate has done this 4 only twenty one months and a short time ago paid the debts on their condo and bought a gorgeous Saab 99 Turbo. i was reading this ----- WWW.STAR58.COM
    before I looked at the paycheck which said $5932, I have faith that my cousin had been trully receiving money in their spare time on their laptop.. there sisters roommate has done this 4 only twenty one months and a short time ago paid the debts on their condo and bought a gorgeous Saab 99 Turbo. i was reading this ----- WWW.STAR58.COM
    If I get constant ear ringing, I'll just pretend it's the feedback at the end of an awesome show
    Its simple - dont go to concerts every week and dont blast your music at retarded levels.
    These findings coincide with their other study, "how taking a pencil in the eye leads to blindness"
    I never wore ear protection until I moved into a new place and the band room was a lot smaller, and the drummer was extra loud. Got myself some ATH-M50's and I couldn't believe how much better everything sounded! I don't know about wearing earplugs at a concert though, that seems a little weird.
    Headphones are the biggest problem as everybody uses them now. I wear ear plugs at live concerts that I have been to and have seen others doing it as well. I don't know if it is tinnitus or not, but probably once or twice per week I have this weird inner ear sensation like my hearing drops out on one side of my head (but it doesn't because I always snap my fingers to see if I can still hear on that side) and then I get a small amount of ringing that lasts for about 15 seconds or so. I no longer listen to much music through headphones....I was always listening way too loud, but those levels were required for the most enjoyment. Now I listen through floor speakers and they provide much better sound, and I don't have to be at concert volume to enjoy the music.
    I have a set of Alpine MusicSafe Pro earplugs that i use all the time at band rehearsals. The day i've bought'em i even used them at the bar/night club i went to with my friends as a test drive, and they're excellent. They're not only omfortable, but they actually make the music listening experience more enjoyable. Also, the attenuation filters are separate from the plug itself, so you can choose between 3 attenuation levels. Can't recommend them enough. This saturday i'm gonna see Mogwai live in London, and i'll be sure to pack the earplugs too.
    I wear earplugs to every concert. I'd like to be able to listen to music even to a very old age if I can get there. I don't play in a band so that aspect's not an issue for me. Although My Bloody Valentine managed to leave my ears ringing for days even with earplugs.
    I've had tinnitus ever since I was a teenager (times when listening to music on headphones at 80% of volume was on a daily basis), not too much though, fortunately. But it somehow hasn't affected my hearing, I even hear better now than ever before. Or it's just me...
    The worst I've had it was seeing two concerts in three days. When I returned to class, post-concert, I couldn't hear a god dang thing. Haha
    The message is of utmost importance and it's appearance here completely valid. It may be common knowledge, but many ignore it because they are ignint little retards who learn the lesson only after it's too late. Protect your phucking ears and keep the music volume at comfortable, safe levels. \m/