Now, speaking for myself as a music fan, hearing is my favorite of the five senses. That's not to say the other senses don't play a part in enjoying music -- the smell of rain in the air during a hot outdoor show, the taste of a cold drink while you're in the club, the sight of bodies colliding in the dark, the feeling of bass shaking your body -- but above all of those is the ability to hear the sounds that move me.
Now that spring is here, more tours are coming to town. More shows means thinking about how you'll take care of your body during them. Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, drinking responsibly -- all easy things your parents probably mentioned at one time or another and all things you've probably ignored once or twice.
And then of course there's the oldest adage of them all. You know the one: turn down your music. Maybe the easiest to ignore.
But seriously, what are you doing to take care of your hearing?
Hearing is not one of the things that get better with age. Being young, you can afford to go out from time to time and engage in behavior that will leave you with ringing in your ears for a few days. Eventually it'll go away and you'll be ready to do it all again.
As you get older things change. That ringing in your ears could develop into a buzz that doesn't go away. You start asking people to speak up, only to find out they're talking at a regular volume. Eventually you might have to get a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
But those are the worst-case scenarios. And while you can never avoid some hearing degeneration, you can at least take the steps to slow it down. We here at Rocks Off might not be doctors, but we can give you some friendly advice on how you can protect your ears.
5. Just turn down the volume. Seriously: Listen, I get it: No one cool has ever said to turn down the volume. Everyone has heard the phrase "If it's too loud you're too old" at one point or another. You also probably know someone older than yourself who lived that life, too.
A parent, an older sibling, a coworker -- someone who was around when rock stars were gods and volume was the only thing that mattered. What happened to them?
They probably listen to the television too loud. So loud that you can't hold a conversation in the same room as them. That's what the pursuit of volume did for an entire generation of people.
That's not to say that you have to keep your stereo just above a whisper or that you can never turn up your music. Just be mindful of the cumulative effect of loud music over time. The louder something is, the quicker it damages your ears. And that goes for non-music noises, too -- lawn mowers, power tools, gunfire.
4. Go with speakers over headphones/earbuds: 90 decibels coming out of a speaker is very different from 90 decibels coming out of a set of headphones. Unless you're pushing your ear directly against the speaker, the sound is going to spread out before you hear it. That gives it time to disperse a bit.
Headphones are a straight shot to the ear canal. It's the difference between having a conversation at a party with music and someone having to tap you on the shoulder while you have earbuds in. The db meter might read the same, but the way you're taking in the sound isn't.
There will be plenty of times when it's not practical to use headphones -- going on a run, at your desk at work, while your roommate is sleeping. Some situations require you to use headphones. But when you have the option, go with the speakers.
3. Earplugs are your friend: Earplugs are stupid cheap. You can get some from Amazon for around $5 shipped and they come in a variety of colors. They also come in different levels of Noise Reduction Rating, which is a fancy way of saying how many decibels they'll reduce sound by. At a 120 db rock concert with 32 NRR earplugs? Only 88 db going in your ears.
What happens if you go to a show and forget your earplugs? Well, there's the method passed down from generation to generation: rolled-up toilet paper. It's not an ideal solution, but it'll get the job done. Plus it's a bit softer on the ears than paper towels.
2. Stop digging in your ears: Earwax is gross but necessary. The ear canal is sensitive and needs the wax for protection. Going around digging in there all crazy is how people rupture their eardrums. A ruptured eardrum means a trip to the doctor, which means medical bills.
There is a reason that boxes of Q-tips say "Not for inner ear use": you stick something soft in your ear and suddenly you think you can't possibly hurt yourself. Then you push too hard, injure yourself and then everyone makes fun of you because they don't understand how dangerous Q-tips are.
There are some people out there that do have too much earwax, but that's something that's going to require a doctor. Speaking from gross personal experience, it involves having your ears pressure washed to have the wax broken down, then carefully removed from the ear. It's disgusting, but it's shocking how much better you can hear after it's over.
1. Find a quiet place to rest: The best thing you can do if you wake up with a ringing in your ears after a show is to let your ears rest. Avoid as much noise as you can until the ringing starts to go away. Like other parts of your body, the ear can get fatigued and need rest.
If you're relaxing your ears, go ahead and relax the rest of your body. Stress can play a factor and make the ringing worse.
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If the combination of silence and ringing freaks you out, get something that can generate soft noise. A fan, the ticking of a clock or a white-noise generator (at a soft volume) can lessen the effect of the ringing.
And since you're relaxing, maybe take a moment to reflect on how you can avoid this in the future. After all, you don't want to spend the rest of your life asking people to speak up, do you?