Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of sound. I grew up in a musical household – one that featured many instruments and much music making. We’d often have people pass through offering house concerts – something I continue to promote and host as an adult. And, if we weren’t playing music ourselves my home had a huge record collection that I listened to as a young person, teenager and then young adult. The music was mostly folk music but there was some Allman Brothers and blues in there, too. At 15 I started playing the guitar, continued listening to recorded music and eventually found my way to large-scale concerts featuring people like Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and others. These were some mighty large and LOUD shows and after the music ended my ears would continue to ring long into the night. At around this age I first became aware of the issue of people losing their hearing.
This attraction to large-scale concerts, music festivals and music, in general, eventually led me to Burning Man where the music is pretty much non-stop – comes from stationary “sound camps” and roams the playa (as the Black Rock Desert is known) via art cars pretty much 24-7. I’ve been to Burning Man 12 times – and each time the “music” seems to get a little louder – sometimes to the point of shaking the ground even when it’s happening a mile away. Though the Burning Man organization has created some rules to limit the deafening levels of sound at the event, it still seems that the experience is marred by the abundance of loud music – usually playing over other loud music – repeat and stir.
Now I love attending Burning Man and other events. But when there is so little attempt to treat sound as a possibly harmful element, one has to wonder whether a safe environment is being created or thought about. Knowing that hearing loss is a growing problem in the world which affects our quality of life, I do what I can to comment back to event organizers that I have a concern about the issue.
This is also an issue affecting folks who travel to more mainstream events such as professional sports. The other night I attended a Portland Trailblazers game with a friend and was surprised to see earplugs being sold for $1 a pair at stands outside of the main hall. I didn’t have to wonder why this might be the case long because as the game began I listened as the DJ used the sound system to bludgeon both the audience and the teams playing with ultra-loud announcements and encouragement for us all to cheer. This went on throughout the night and I wondered to myself what the effect of this might be on the players who play the game night after night. I suspect their game is also interrupted by the intensity of the sound system, but that’s just another bad side effect of music/commentary being turned up too high.
As much as I worry about my own hearing loss, I’ve been saddened over the years by relatives’ loss of hearing. You may struggle as I do with a relative who’s lost all or some of their hearing. Many people use hearing aids, but many don’t – and it’s challenging to figure out how to help. One way is to suggest that your friend or relative find an audiologist. Here’s a website that can provide that information.
I hope I never lose my hearing and I’m taking more and more precautions with time to protect myself and those who I know from this and other environmental effects (leaf-blowers, car alarms, lawn-mowers) that exist in our modern world. If you agree with me that sometimes the music/noise at an event is too loud, please feel free to speak up. Often DJs who are spinning their music have been doing it so long that they are a bit hard of hearing, too – and thus, don’t really have a sense of just how loud things are. I know that often this turns up as a way too loud bass thrumming sound. Please say something!
Things won’t change unless we stand up and speak out. Thanks for caring enough to take a stand on hearing loss issues.
Here‘s a great, short PSA video about Hearing Loss. And, feel free to share this posting with friends and family – hopefully, it will lead someone to get the help they need.