On June 25th, I was at the Roger Daltrey rock concert at the Ravinia Festival in the north burbs of Chicago. Near the halfway point of the concert, I leaned over and asked the person I was with "Is it really loud in here?"
When the show was over, my ears ached and I had ringing noises going through my head.
Today, it's three weeks later and while it's not as bad as that night, the pain and ringing is still there. Tinnitus?
I've been listening to loud music for more than fifty years. For me, it was the louder, the better. My way of waking up and getting alert in the morning wasn't coffee, it was putting on a Led Zeppelin cd and turning the sound up! Good times, bad times....my ears have had their share.
In a past life, I was a photographer and I worked a lot of concerts. It meant hours of being up front and just feet away from the speakers. I never had a thought about what I was doing to my ears.
About twenty years ago, I noticed I was having trouble hearing. I was, and still am, asking people to repeat what they are saying. A couple of my friends were having a discussion about their hearing issues, then looked over at me and told me I was worse than them. I agreed.
It got to the point where I went to an audiologist for a checkup but all the tests came back normal. I took that as a sign to double down.
I continued listening to loud music with no protection. A few years ago I was at a St. Paul & The Broken Bones concert at Metro, in Chicago. I found a place to stand up front. I never noticed that I was less than five feet from a speaker. When the concert ended, as I was walking out, the voices of people talking sounded like Minnie Mouse.....scary AF!!! My hearing came back to normal about a half hour later. What I should have taken as a sign, I ignored.
I continued to listen to my Ipod and stereo with the sound as loud as possible...and with ear buds. Yep...the music directly in my ears. I know....stupid AF but I always felt if you think the music is too loud, you're too old. No one wants that.
But for some reason, I'm taking this episode from the Daltrey concert seriously. We now know about ear damage to many musicians. Tinnitus is common. Daltrey and his partner in The Who, Peter Townshend have been very open about their hearing loss. Townshend is almost deaf and Daltrey not too far behind him. Roger talks about ear safety at his concerts and is also a spokesperson for a Chicago audiologist.
It was far from the loudest concert I've attended but ear pain has me worried. I started asking around.
Beth Prystowsky writes Ups and Downs of a Yoga Mom here at ChicagoNow and Modern Day MS. She goes to a lot of concerts. She once told me she uses ear plugs at concerts and I asked if she still does that:
"Yes and my kids do too. I actually didn’t have them for Taylor Swift and it was a little painful."
Great idea to start them with earplugs when they're young.
Jim Ryan attends more concerts than anyone I know. He writes Chicago at Night for ChicagoNow. He also writes about music for Forbes. I asked him about ear protection and if he uses anything?
"I don’t use them but should. I definitely have the beginnings of tinnitus - slight buzzing when it’s quiet."
I'm sold! I made a couple of calls to audiologists and have an appointment next month. I also have some ear plugs that I'm going to try out at my next concert. These are small steps but it's a start.
Yeah, I still think if the music is too loud you're too old, but it's long past time to change that thinking. Yeah that sounds like another step to be becoming a keep off the grass guy, but better that than losing your hearing.
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