“So, this is the bit where I hype up the ears…” smiles Dr James Schuster-Bruce, an Ear Nose and Throat doctor in London.
Let’s just say, he’s kind of obsessed, in a good way – and he thinks you should be too.
“Your ears are actually amazing, and their function is important to everyday life,” he continues.
“It's your verbal conversations, it’s listening to your music… it’s listening to waves crash on the beach.”
Dr James co-founded sonic safety collaborative Life is Loud to spread awareness about the importance of safe listening, to help music fans spot the first signs of noise-induced hearing loss, and to share advice for taking action on the first signs of hearing damage, to help the music community keep doing what they love, for as long as possible.
“It's never too late to start looking after your hearing health – especially knowing that it is progressive and irreversible. So at whatever point that you start looking after it is a good point to start - preferably as early as possible.”
“If you’re going to loud events and practicing safe listening it reduces the chances of your symptoms worsening – and it’s actually quite easy to do!”
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Safe listening tips
Take a soundcheck - and have earplugs ready
“Know how loud it is using a smartphone app,” says Dr James. “If it’s over 85 dB, you should consider wearing earplugs,” he adds. Stuck on where to start in picking out your earplugs? Check out our guide to the best earplugs.
Know your place
“Stand away from the speaker.” According to Dr James, not only will this protect your ears, it’ll also give you a better experience musically. “By the mixing desk is often the best sound!”
Take a time-out
Dr James also recommends taking regular listening breaks, both while you’re out at nightclubs and concerts, but also while you’re listening to music in your own time. He points out that most devices now have safe-listening software built in which will let you know if you’re listening to your music too loud or for too long – and taking note of those warnings is a great step towards giving your ears plenty of rest.
Get a yearly hearing check
“Get a yearly hearing check!” he continues. “These are often free!” He adds that it’s best to be proactive about this. “You don't need symptoms to get a checkup.”
Try not to procrastinate
“Health causes anxiety in people – that’s completely understandable,” says Dr James in response to the suggestion that some people might dread finding out bad news after an ear check-up. But he compares hearing tests to eye tests - a pretty standard part of healthcare for many. “If you're gonna get an eye test, it's very routine,” he explains.
“You may find that your vision isn't as good as it should have been. But you're empowered by that knowledge – you can take steps in everyday life to manage that better, rather than letting it deteriorate,” he adds.
“And it’s the same with your hearing.”