Thursday, October 23, 2014

Music: The Joy That Kills?

Woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Many of you have probably been to concerts, or maybe some of you are musicians, but no matter who you are, almost all of you have listened to loud music using ear bud style headphones at one point or another in your life. What you might not have known is that listening to music is a very serious issue all over the world, especially with teenagers in this generation. I have some experience because I am a high schooler, and I can often hear people walking with headphones in, and sometimes I can even hear their music. Before I researched this situation, I was also guilty of listening to high volumes of music, but now I know better. By making yourself aware of the threats of music you can protect yourself from future hearing loss. Many studies have shown that listening to music can cause serious hearing loss, but most people don’t know about it, refuse to accept it, or they are simply doing nothing to stop it.                                                

First off, before discussing the many causes of hearing loss and how to protect yourself, you need to understand how hearing loss actually works. We have many tiny hair cells in our inner ears. They change sounds into electronic signals. Then, nerves carry the signals to the brain where we can interpret them as noises. These hair cells are very fragile and can be easily damaged by loud sounds; they overload and die completely. Once the hairs die, they can never be reproduced or fixed, so this results in permanent hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels (dB), from a scale of 0-180. Any sounds above 85 decibels is dangerous to your hearing. Concerts are generally 110dB-120dB. It’s 140dB if you are directly in front of the speakers. Even listening to music through headphones is 110dB. Because noise is everywhere and is generally loud, there are lots of simple things that can harm your hearing. (MedlinePlus)

Some jobs and activities that can be dangerous include working at night clubs, being a sound crew member, a recording engineer, attending concerts (120dB), listening to music with earphones (110dB), being a musician, or even just children in a school band depending on what instrument they play. Those who attend or are in symphonic orchestras are exposed to about 120-137dB of sound. According to Jonel Aleccia from NBC News, musicians are actually four times more likely to have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Trevor Specht, a professional musician for the past twenty five years from Maryland says, “I play saxophone, but I’m standing next to the drums and the cymbals are at ear level. Almost every musician I know has hearing loss, even if they won’t admit it.” (NBC News).

Some people are in denial that music actually causes hearing loss, or they refuse to change their listening behaviors. This has become more and more common with teenagers in this generation. A study done by the Siemen Hearing Industry showed that 78% of teens have been told by parents or teachers to lower their music volume or wear hearing protection, yet 81% of teens still listen to dangerous volumes of music. The study also shows that 46% of teens show signs of NIHL and 17% (1 in every 6 teens) constantly have ringing, roaring, buzzing, or pain in their ears. Mary Florentine, an audiologist at Northeastern University, says that they tend to develop what is called “loud music dependency disorder (LMDD)”. She asked them:
             why they continued to expose themselves to loud music even though they knew it was harming their hearing, and they said they couldn't stop listening. They said, ‘When I stop listening I get sad and depressed, and then I go back to it because I can't take it after a while. I start listening again at moderate levels, but it doesn't do anything for me, so I start to listen at high levels.'
Most teens use ear bud style headphones to listen to music. The National Institute of Health has even said that, “any type of headphone has the potential to cause [noise-induced hearing loss] if used improperly in terms of absolute level of the sounds, the length of exposure time to sound, and the fit of the earphone or headphone.” Earphones are especially dangerous because the sound goes directly into your ear canal, and since they don’t block out outside noises that much, people end up turning the volume up very high. But why do teenagers keep listening to music if it will hurt their hearing and they know that that will happen? Because they believe that medical technology will find a way to restore their hearing (WebMD), but so far, it’s impossible. Out of all the kids from ages 6-19, 12.5% of them have noise-induced hearing loss. That's about 5.2 million kids that already have hearing problems (WebMD). Remember, headphones can generally produce 120-137 decibels of sound. This is at least 30 decibels above the safe volume limit of 85 decibels.

You may be wondering why we even need to be worrying about this. Hearing aids are getting better, and there are many different factors that can result in hearing loss. Why do we just need to worry about music? As long as you are a responsible music listener, then you don’t have much to worry about besides hearing loss that develops with age. There are many headphones on the market now that offer noise cancellation. If there are less outside noises, then the listener will most likely listen at a lower decibel level (Fligor, Better Hearing Institute). There are also some headphones that restrict the volume levels, so kids can’t damage their hearing as easily. Musicians can even get special custom made earphones for themselves. Although there are many ways to prevent hearing loss, most people don’t even recognize that this is an issue, so there are still many people that will get hearing loss because of music. You also have to remember that our world is moving into an age of technology that’s advancing, giving us newer and easier ways to access media and music.

This generation is being born into a world full of technology. Music is all around us now and teenagers are hooked on it. There has been an alarming increase of hearing loss in teens, and that number will continue to increase unless people start becoming aware of this issue and doing something to stop it. If everyone knew how to protect themselves against hearing loss and there wasn’t so much of it, then other issues could be taken care of. But the truth is, that will not happen very soon. Many people are completely unaware of the sounds around them and how it might be affecting their lives.

Can you see now that this is a bigger issue than we realize? I certainly do! Music is all around us; it’s creating a new generation of hearing loss. Some doctors have already started to raise awareness. William Martin, the co-director of the Dangerous Decibels Project, has created a program with the Oregon Museum of Science to train kids, parents, and teachers about the threats of noise-induced hearing loss. The three most practical ways to deal with loud music is to turn it down, walk away, or protect your ears. The next time you’re sitting in the bus and you can hear another person’s music through their earphones, tell him or her to turn it down. Helping the community is as simple as raising awareness and telling people to turn down their music. Will you take a stand?

Conclusion (edited 11/9/14)

Hearing loss caused by music has been a serious issue all around the world. People are not using it appropriately like a good digital citizen, and the result is permanent hearing loss. They either don't realize it's an issue, refuse to except it, or are doing nothing to stop it. Reading and responding to all of the comments further convinced me that not many believe that this is an issue. Most of the comments said that they knew about the topic, but they weren't aware of the facts and the full consequences. Some of the comments helped me to see more details involved in the issue. For example, one person asked if listening to a certain type of music could increase or decrease the risk of hearing loss. I had to do further research to answer questions like these that I had not thought of. The result I found for this was question was no, but I also found benefits to listening to music. Music without lyrics can actually help you focus as long as the volume is not too loud, of course. This made me rethink my counter argument. I realized that there were could reasons why music could be good for you, but it did not change my stand on this issue. The bad outweighs the good, and I will probably not change what I think.Overall, the whole blogging process was fun, but when leaving comments on other blogs, it sometimes did not work. It would take several times before it published. It was very frustrating when I didn't copy my comment and it didn't publish. I had to completely retype it again, but overall, creating a blog and leaving or responding to comments was a great experience.


  1. Good work Jessica! I uses headphones a lot, and when I put them on i usually go to 75%of the maximum volume, leave the rest of the world muted and enjoy the music. I've heard the loud music will damage the hearing but I didn't believe it. Now I know that the hair won't reproduce after it is damage. Great title that caught my eyes.

    1. Hello Passive Fungi! Thank you for your comment! I'm glad that you realize that you've been listening to dangerous volumes of music. I know that outside noises can be annoying when trying to enjoy music, so have you considered noise cancelling headphones? If you where them, you'll be less likely to listen to loud music. I recommend that you stay at a 50% volume level or below. Remember it's 85 decibels or above that will harm your ears.
      Here is a link to an article from the Better Hearing Institute. If you scroll almost to the bottom, there's a section that tells you about several different forms of good noise cancellation products that help to prevent hearing loss.
      Thank you again for the comment ~Jessica97

  2. Hi, Jessica! Great work! This is a fascinating choice for a blog post, and you did and amazing job writing persuasively and completely changing my opinion about hearing loss. Whenever I listen to music around my mom, she always gets mad at me and tells me to turn it down so that I won't lose my hearing. I don't listen to music too loud, but I didn't really make an effort to conserve my hearing, either. All this changed when I went to the doctor this summer for my physical, and I learned that I had slight hearing loss. That might come from playing one of the loudest instruments in the band - trumpet! - but it also probably comes from not listening to my mom and other people, such as yourself, who have told me that hearing loss is a real issue. As a prospective pilot, I am used to wearing sunglasses and trying to conserve my eyesight, but your blog post made me realize the importance of conserving the sense of hearing as well. Do you think that this issue will ever be fixed? Or do you think that people will just keep denying the fact that hearing loss really can occur? Do you think that there even is a way to fix this issue? Thank you for posting your amazing and thought-inspiring article!

    Incredible work,

    1. Dear lenoregray, thank you for your questions! First off, playing the trumpet and being in a band can be dangerous for your hearing! If you want to know more about the full affects of going to a concert or playing in a band, here's an article that you might find helpful. I think that if everyone becomes aware of the dangers of loud music, we can fix it. So far not many people are doing anything, but it's very simple to start raising awareness. First, you can help yourself. Then you tell your friends, then they will tell their family, and so on. It creates a chain reaction of helping people. Right now there are only temporary solutions like hearing aids, but that's not permanent. Like I said in the blog, the hairs in our ears can never be repaired. If science improves and they can recreate organs to implant (if they haven't done so already), then maybe they can recreate the hair cells too.
      Thanks again for your great questions,

  3. Jessica, you did such a great job writing this piece! I've had people tell me about this problem before, but they didn't tell me about the fact that you can't replace the hearing that you've lost. I guess I knew this already, but I was just hoping that someone would develop the technology to. I have to admit, I listen to my music pretty loud, because you're right, headphones don't block out the outside sounds. I listen to music while I do my homework, and I just turn up the volume when I want to really want to focus. It didn't bother me at first to listen to my music so loud because my younger sister uses hearing aids already, and she says they aren't all that bad, except for everyone asking her what those funny things are in her ears. Now I realize that even though they are small and aren't uncomfortable, they aren't really something I'd want to wear everyday. It was also really beneficial to me when you explained how ear loss happened, because I wasn't aware of that process. Again, fantastic job writing, and thanks for sharing!

    1. Hello Bert! Thanks for sharing your comment! I'm sorry, but there isn't any technology to bring back your hearing permanently. Also, it's not good to listen to music while doing homework. You can't focus and remember as much. Here's an article from Huffington Post explaining seven different ways that noises including music can be affecting your health.
      Enjoy the article! ~Jessica97

  4. I can't agree more with your, Jessica. You just remind me how bad could that be if I wearing earphone all day long. I love listening to music. It has always been a really important part of my daily life. Everyday I wake up and have my breakfast with my favorite songs. When I am doing my homework, I take on my earphone and so that I can focus on my homework and avoid the noise around. When I feel sad or depressed, I will play some soft music to calm myself down. While being attached to the music, I do think they damage my ears. You are pretty about that. On the other hand, except doing bad to our ears, I think wearing earphone too much would also block us from communicating to others. Imagine that, while you are trying to have a talk with your best friend, he or she says nothing and take out a earphone. Then you would probably know that you have to delay your talk. Here's a link about how earphone affect your work.At Work, Do Headphones Really Help? Hope you enjoy it.

    1. Dear MegaZ,
      Thank you for the article! It was very interesting, and I agree that it is very frustrating when someone is listening to music and being antisocial. Music can also distract you a lot at work. I understand that some people love music, and it's ok to listen to it when you are alone, but make sure it's not too loud. When you do your homework, try to tell yourself to not listen to music. If it's the outside noises that distract you, just try to wear noise cancelling headphones without any music playing. When you are with others, it's very rude to listen to music or even just being on your phone when someone is trying to talk to you.
      Thank you for the article!

  5. Jessica, your writing was very persuasive! Nice job in giving the reader many solutions. Personally, I have turned up my music almost to the fullest bars in public situations just to block out surrounding sounds and after a while, I felt my ear ache or I would get a slight headache. After reading this blog and knowing that the consequences are hard/impossible to fix, I will rethink the volume settings when listening to music, especially in public. This video is an ad by Dr.Dre Beats. It promotes the feature of blocking out sound. Do you think this is a factor in why peoples' (especially teenagers) hearing abilities are weakening?

    1. Dear Casey, thank you for the comment and the video. It was very interesting! I actually think that noise cancelling headphones help to prevent hearing loss. People who listen to music with noise cancelling headphones are less likely to listen to dangerous volumes of music because they don't need to turn up the volume to block out noise. On the other hand, if they just like listening to very loud music, then there is a possibility that they increase the risk of hearing loss. If you scroll to the near bottom of this website there is a section that talks about how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, and many of their solutions involve noise cancelling devices.
      Enjoy! ~Jessica97

    2. Casey, that video seems to raise a whole pile of other issues besides just hearing loss! Yikes. If that kind of harassment happens to most professional athletes (or other celebrities), perhaps it's time to have a conversation about empathy and kindness... Great response Jessica97. You've done your research well!

  6. Jessica,
    This is a great article! I thought it was really interesting how many different things could cause hearing loss, such as playing an instrument. Your blog was so well written, and very informative! Does the type of music affect the amount of hearing loss? For example, do kids who listen to more rap music suffer more hearing loss than kids who listen to classical or country music? Thanks so much for sharing all of this information!

    1. Hello Abigail! Thank you for your comment! The chances of getting hearing loss does not increase or decrease depending on the type of music. It just depends on the volume and how long your listening to music. On the other hand, when trying to focus on something, it depends on the music. Some music like rap does not help with concentration, and music without lyrics can actually help you focus. Here's an article from the New York Times that explains this.
      Thanks again for your comment,

  7. Thank you Jessica, for posting this article. I can relate to this because my dad played in a band when he was young, and he often says how bad his hearing is because of it. I like how you added in the science behind it, and how you filled your blog with links full of facts and studies.
    Keep Raising Awareness

    1. Hello Student, thank you for your comment! Being in a band is very dangerous if you don't know how to protect yourself! If you want to know the full dangers of being a musician, here's an article that will explain it.
      Thank you for your contribution,


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