Turn on, tune in, go deaf
February 21, 2006 9:27 AM   Subscribe

How to convince an 18 year old that loud music is harmful?

AskMe has previously discussed hearing loss due to loud music and the value of using concert ear plugs to reduce the risk. But how does one persuade an 18 year old that the risk is significant, and that simple steps taken now (turn down the volume inside the car, wear plugs at the concert) will spare him pain and loss in a few years? More generally, how do you persuade a teenager to take fewer risks with his health?
posted by SPrintF to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get them to read this? If they won't listen to someone it's happened to, and who loves music every bit as much, if not more, than they do, then I'm not sure what else you could do.
posted by edd at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2006

Well if he uses an Ipod, this might help.

And here's some more pertinent information-- Look at "Case 1".
posted by jne1813 at 9:35 AM on February 21, 2006

Find out what musicans that he loooves wear earplugs. With any luck, there'll be an interview somewhere with said musician testifying that loud music is great until you can't hear the wicked bass solo because you blew out your hearing at 20.
posted by desuetude at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2006

I agree. Any pro musician will tell you that you gotta wear ear plugs if you're gonna stand next to the speakers at the concert.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:39 AM on February 21, 2006

not sure if i can assist in convincing... but i go to lots of shows and wear these to every one. they're relatively discrete (clear), cheap, and the best thing is that they reduce noise across all frequency ranges so you don't lose much quality of sound at all

if it helps, i'm 24 and pretty damn cool... ;-) just let me talk to him/her. losing your hearing is not cool.
posted by whatitis at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2006

Buy him a COMFORTABLE pair of pro-grade musician's earplugs. Bonus points if you can find a pair endorsed by a band he respects.
posted by The White Hat at 10:02 AM on February 21, 2006

Take a sample of their favourite music. Now run it through any audio editor and strip out 80-90% of the amplitude of the upper band using a high-pass filter. Basically, every high pitch is replaced by some fuzzy deep rumblings. Music sounds like shit (well, except for dubstep and ragga jungle). That is what they will begin to hear like in their 40s unless they take steps now to reduce the normal degenerative hearing loss that progresses with age.
posted by meehawl at 10:07 AM on February 21, 2006

Help him understand exactly what the consequences are. Most people think that this sort of hearing loss simply means the world gets muffled and quiet, but that's not it at all. Instead, the world is obscured by a constant loud noise that sounds like a high-pitched squeal layered over TV static -- like this. It never goes away and you can't get away from it because it's inside your head and incurable. (More here.)

Dare him to spend a day trying to function with this sound constantly looping on his iPod at low volume. Then remind him that the perceived volume for sufferers is considerably higher. Then get the earplugs whatitis recommended.
posted by jjg at 10:08 AM on February 21, 2006

Tinnitus is a bitch, and I know of a lot of people who have it in middle age. Pretty much everyone I know who's in a band wears earplugs. The kind whatitis mentioned are great in that they're cheap, effective, and actually make it so you can hear people near you better.

As for home listening, get him some better headphones or closed-ear headphones. The only reasons to have music at a loud volume is to block out other noise, or to hear all the parts of the music. You're not going to get a lot of bass with any headphones, so cranking it up too high is like having someone scream in your ear. Closed headphones will block sound better and better headphones will make the seperation between highs and lows clearer.

Or just tell him he's so lame that he doesn't even know why his headphones are loud.
posted by mikeh at 10:30 AM on February 21, 2006

I second White Hat's advice to get him a comfortable pair of professional earplugs. Ordinary earplugs you purchase at the drugstore cut out the high frequencies and are not enjoyable to use.
posted by dudeman at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2006

Jeez, people -- have you forgotten so soon? He's 18 -- you won't be able to convince him of anything, because he's at the precise age where he knows everything!

Yeah, sure, there's a risk, but he hasn't lived long enough for anything to be be permanent. Give the kid some time; teenagers are allowed to listen to loud music. Didn't you? I did. Does my listening now sound anything like meehawl describes? No! Still have excellent reception across the entire sonic waveband. But then, I stopped attending concerts around age 26.
posted by Rash at 10:50 AM on February 21, 2006

Find out what musicans that he loooves wear earplugs. With any luck, there'll be an interview somewhere with said musician testifying that loud music is great until you can't hear the wicked bass solo because you blew out your hearing at 20.

Two obvious examples are the Who's Pete Townshend and Mission of Burma's Roger Miller.

See also Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers.
posted by scratch at 10:52 AM on February 21, 2006

On the other hand, do I experience schadenfreude when a sub-woofer car goes thumping by, knowing its occupants are killing their ears? You betcha!
posted by Rash at 10:53 AM on February 21, 2006

I seriously scared myself by going virtually deaf for two days after a J Mascis gig a few years ago, which was the first time my ears actually stung from the inside from the volume (silly me, standing right in front of the stage between the main stacks and the monitors -- Mr Mascis, of course, was wearing ear protection).

Ever since I've worn ear plugs to gigs, and it actually improves the experience, cutting out the annoying chit-chat of poseurs in the audience while at the same time eliminating the PA distortion that often mars live rock performances.

As for convincing a teenager to heed such advice? Well, I'm not sure what could work unless he or she were to suffer the same experience I did.
posted by macdara at 11:07 AM on February 21, 2006

Does my listening now sound anything like meehawl describes? No! Still have excellent reception across the entire sonic waveband.

Your neural machinery is quite good at compensating for or routing around a gradual loss of signal - up to a point. But progressive loss of absolute high frequency electromechanical response is inescapable - it's part of the aging process. Pretty much everyone experiences a loss of the hair cells with 4 μm cilia that perceive 20 kHz. The only real issue is how fast it progresses. Your perception of your hearing is not a reliable judge of your faculty - if you get tested with some tones used for juveniles and adolescents then you may be in for a surprise.
posted by meehawl at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2006

It may not help convince an 18 year old, but for whatever it's worth, I woke up one morning after a concert with tinnitus in one ear. I don't go to concerts that often, but I listened to loud music a ton when I was younger, playing in bands and doing a lot of studio work. If I'm blaming something, I blame loud headphones in the studio.

But before the onset of the horrible, incessant ringing that has now plagued me for about 3 years, there wasn't even a hint that my hearing had suffered. No perceptible loss, no ringing, no nothing. The concert wasn't even that loud (I thought). I chalk it up to cumulative effect.

I'm getting used to it now, but at first, and every once in a while now, it drove me completely insane. I'm in good company, with everyone from Bono to Townsend, Jeff Beck, Trent Reznor and many, many others, but that doesn't make it any less maddening. There is no cure, and it never stops. I can't even tell you how much it sucks. Just writing about it makes it seem 10 times worse, so I must stop now.
posted by JekPorkins at 11:17 AM on February 21, 2006

I have a permanent case of Tinnitus because of concerts my parents brought me to as a child (but I'm not upset at them - they took me to great shows, I was a lucky kid).

I now wear earplugs at every concert, and actually [SELF LINK ALERT] wrote an article entitled Love it Loud? Stick it in your ear that talks about how damaging concerts can be, etc.

There's a ton of other articles out there, probably more well written than mine - but I tried to write mine to speak more on the level of the college age student, since that was my audience back at the time I wrote it.

Have your son drop me a line if you like - I'd be happy to tell him all about how incredibly not fun it is to try and go to sleep with a raging case of tinnitus.
posted by twiggy at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2006

My parents always told me to wear earplugs to concerts and I always ignored them until I had a hearing scare. I woke up one morning after a concert and my ears were ringing so loudly that i couldn't hear anything else. I had to sit in meetings all day and I couldn't hear what anyone was saying. It scared the hell out of me.

I now wear earplugs at almost every show I go to. Not too long ago, I forgot my earplugs and ended up leaving the show after about 30 minutes because my ears were bothering me so much.

I'm not sure of the best way to convince an 18 year old of this though. Maybe show him/her this thread?
posted by whatideserve at 12:26 PM on February 21, 2006

Short answer: He's 18, you can't tell him anything.

Better answer: Club-Ear, Club-Disease, whatever his friends call it - the temporary tinnitus from the loud concert. I hated trying to sleep with that when I got home after a concert. I can't imagine anyone enjoys it.

Earplugs stop that from happening. The bass still shakes your chest cavity. What's the downside?

"They look uncool." is about the only thing, but next time he goes to the concert tell him to look around. The band, the staff (roadies, some of the bartenders & waitrons), and many of the concert-goers will be wearing ear protection. Any of those people look like they're worried about looking un-cool? Nope. They're probably looking at his unprotected ears with the aforementioned schadenfreude and thinking, "What a dumbass."
posted by Crosius at 12:32 PM on February 21, 2006

Fuck, man, I work as a music journalist. I go to shows all the time, and loud ones too. I didn't used to wear earplugs all the time, and I really wish that I had. Hearing loss is like having to squint to see anything detailed all the time. Get him some good earplugs. That way, he can see (whatever super loud musician he enjoys) without worrying. And note that the musician is wearing earplugs too (oh, and that musicians usually wear earplugs even with just the monitors coming at them. They get a lot less sound than the full stacks raging at a small club).
posted by klangklangston at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2006

Headphones are not the answer. They are known to increase hearing loss.

Lots of good scare stories here which might help, but I doubt you are really going to get him to wear earplugs at a concert, although buying him a pair can't hurt. I would focus on the more achievable goal of getting the stereo turned down.
posted by caddis at 1:02 PM on February 21, 2006

Anecdotal proof that it's ok to wear earplugs: last week I went with my girlfriend to a large, arena rock style concert. On the drive there, she suddenly blurted out "Aww, I forgot my earplugs." I felt like a jerk because I had two pairs that I had been planning to bring sitting on a shelf near the door.

So if you want to do something cool for your girl, bring along an extra pair of earplugs. The right kind will even make it easier to hear her when she's yelling in your ear during the show.
posted by mikeh at 1:06 PM on February 21, 2006

I used to never wear plugs at shows, but now I find that not only does it feel good to know I'm finally protecting my hearing but additionally I think the music sounds better with the plugs in. A lot of clubs turn the volume on the whole setup to levels that cause a lot of distortion in the sound, especially at metal shows. Instead of just being pounded by guitars, when you wear ear plugs you can actually hear the drums and the bass. It really has made concerts more enjoyable for me.

I used to go to 3 shows a week when I was 18, never wore ear plugs at all, and I already have tinnitus from it. While it's not that bad it still bothers me sometimes. It would be a lot worse if I didn't wear earplugs now and it would be a lot less severe if I had made this wise choice at the age of 18 (I'm 22 now). If the subject of this post is reading this, just try wearing earplugs to a show once. The music really does sound bettter.
posted by baphomet at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2006

I wouldn't worry about it. By the time he starts to lose his hearing (20 years), cochlear implants will be cheap and will probably let you hear better than humans normally can.
posted by grex at 3:59 PM on February 21, 2006

I have a question for all of you: my daughter is a serious flute/piccolo player - plays in several ensembles, an orchestra, and a marching band. Are the continuous high/shrill notes so close to her ear a concern? She probably plays several hours each day.
posted by Flakypastry at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2006

I was never a big concert-goer in my ute, so I don't worry about the cumulative loss like some other people, but at 42 I just attended a Nine Inch Nails concert [blog :)] and I wish I'd brought earplugs. I did have a bit of tinnitus the next day.

One of my friends is an air traffic controller, and an inveterate musician and music consumer. He probably attended hundreds, if not thousands, of very hard rock shows without protection. A few years ago, he came back from a concert with painful, annoying tinnitus in one ear and a very profound deafness in the other. It affected his balance, and he had to take sick days at work. He was terrified about seeing a doctor, too, because if he was determined to have permanent hearing loss it could affect his employment (his goal is to put in 25 years -- he was hired after Reagan fired strikers -- and retire early ... so, yo u know, he can hang out and go to more shows). ATCs need to be able to communicate with pilots and that's all voice.

Fortunately he was given some meds that eased the pain and something like an antibiotic (you tell me), and after about 10 days he felt "healed".

But he's never gone to a concert without ear protection since.

Tell the kid that ringing in his ears, even if temporary, is like scarring on a cut -- the ringing will go away, but the scar will still be there. It probably (as I'm told) indicates a permanent loss.

Flakypastry: this medical article says there are mixed opinions. In Australia, though, it's being treated as a workplace safety issue.
posted by dhartung at 8:02 PM on February 21, 2006

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