December 29, 2005

Earphones and Hearing Loss

Pete Townshend blogs about his hearing loss brought on not by loud live concerts, but by earphones in recording studios.

In a studio there are often accidental buzzes, shrieks and poor connections that cause temporary high level sounds. Playing drums with earphones on is probably a form of insanity I think, all those gunshots, so much louder than a real gunshot, but how else can a drummer hear the other musicians? When I work solo now I often avoid using a drummer, simply to keep the overall sound levels lower. Also, one might have to work for several hours to perfect a studio performance. As the work progresses, the ears shut down and one needs a higher volume. If you stop to rest your ears (and you need to do so for at least 36 hours to do any good) you lose the current performance. It is a tough call.

I have unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type of music that makes its principal proponents deaf. It takes time, but it happens. This is, I suppose, no worse than being a sports person or dancer who knows they have a limited working span, and their body will suffer. The rewards are great - money, fame, adulation and a real sense of self-worth and achievement. But music is a calling for life. You can write it when you're deaf, but you can't hear it or perform it.

It's an interesting post. Makes me recall the times I've had my headphones on recording something, and I press the wrong button on the mixing console, and ZZZAAAAPPP KAPOWWWW an intensely loud buzz hits the headphones -- so loud, so beyond comprehension, and so sudden, that you don't know what's happening, and for a moment it almost feels like your eyes are rolling up and you're being zapped by a gazillion volts of electricity. It's scary. It's one of the reasons I didn't like my Mackie mixer -- it would occasionally do this horrific sound in the headphones. I'm sure it was some cabling error on my part, but still. No matter what preventive measures I tried, it would happen every few months.

I wonder how much hearing damage is going on what with all the new iPod owners out there.... Particularly young children and teenagers, with earphones in their ears every day, every night, all the time. A nation of deaf middle-aged folks in the making?

UPDATE 12/29/05
Well, well, well. Associated Press reads my blog, or, great minds think alike: check out this AP wire story on iPods and hearing loss. It's been Slashdotted even.

Oh wait . . . just now reading the comments . . . I guess the Slashdot happened yesterday. Didn't know, honest!

Posted by brian at December 29, 2005 09:29 AM


How timely. I read an article on how iPod earbuds can cause hearing loss the other day, and I've switched back to my over-the-ear headphones as a result. (I'd include the link, but the spam filter kills it.)

Will this mean the resurgence of boom boxes?

Posted by: Chris at December 29, 2005 12:14 PM

The article Chris is referring to is probably the one at the top of yesterday's (12/28) Slashdot.

Posted by: Joe Auricchio at December 29, 2005 12:44 PM

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