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I’m paranoid about my hearing–and you should be paranoid about yours, too. Here’s why.

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

At the risk of sounding like Grandpa Simpson, please turn it down.

My career in radio spans more than 40 years as a radio host, writer, reporter, and interviewer. To say that sound and audio are my life would not be far from the truth, since I spend most of my time listening and turning all that I hear to tell stories to radio listeners and podcast listeners around the world. I have always been deeply obsessed with good audio, partly because I’m a huge music fan but mostly because I make my living through sound.

As an audiophile geek, I can’t imagine a life without the gift of sound and music. But I know that as I get older, hearing is one of those things that starts to decline for many of us, even if it’s in small ways. It can happen gradually as part of the aging process or can be caused by trauma or prolonged exposure to high levels of sound.

Take musicians. Some of the biggest names in music, from Beethoven to Pete Townshend to Trent Reznor and Chris Martin, have reported having at least some hearing loss or tinnitus (the perception of noise like ringing in your ears). According to the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), a non-profit funder of hearing research in the U.S., musicians are four times as likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss than the general public. The percentage is higher for tinnitus, which can interfere with your hearing but is not necessarily a precursor to hearing loss. Still, it can be enough to drive you to madness.

But you don’t have to be a musician for loud music to damage your hearing. HHF reports that there’s evidence that loud rock music, and the use of personal listening devices with earphones, can also take a lot of the blame for the rest of us.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38524 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “I’m paranoid about my hearing–and you should be paranoid about yours, too. Here’s why.

  • Story time…

    On a related note, ALWAYS ask questions when you get your hearing tested.

    A few years ago, I noticed some hearing loss. Assumed it was from years and years of playing guitar in bands, and watching a lot of live music. Turns out…nope.

    I wanted to do something about it. Hearing aids maybe? So I went and got my hearing tested.

    The doctor ran me through the tests. Right hear was 100% normal. Left ear I was at maybe 30% hearing ability. At best.

    The doc went on and on about how odd the results were. Normally, something like noise damage would be relatively equal on both sides. For only one side to have an issue, was incredibly weird. She even brought in another doc to look at the results with her. Her summary? Good news, I only needed one hearing aid, at about $2500. I asked her, “if this is so weird, and such an anomaly, shouldn’t it get looked at further? Find out why?”

    She looked so deflated. Basically told me to go see my doc and get a referral to an ENT doc.

    So I did. Made an appointment, had an MRI done, did some other tests, then met with the ENT doc…and a neurosurgeon. Turns out I had something called an acoustic neuroma. Or Vestibular Schwannoma. Basically, I had a golf ball sized tumour growing around my left auditory canal. Not cancer, and wasn’t life threatening at the time. But left unchecked, it would have grown, and then would have started pressing against my brain and other nerves, and would have turned life threatening.

    In Feb 2020 I had brain surgery to have it removed. Totally deaf in my left ear now, but the tumour is gone.

    Had I listed to the hearing doc, it would have gone unchecked, and who knows what would have happened.

    So get your hearing checked, and ASK questions.

    • Oh, and here’s the fun part.

      Music sounds different now. I’m living mono is a stereo world. I find if things get too loud, everything just gets jumbled, like white noise. Loud music, eating in restaurants, concerts. Anywhere the background noise is too loud.

      I wear a noise cancelling earplug for live shows now. It helps a lot, but I am definitely missing certain frequencies.

      • Wow Dan.. you’re story is pretty much word for word with mine! Just change the year to 2014. Although they did refer me to an ENT without me having to ask.
        My right ear’s only use is to hold up the sunglasses. And as an added bonus, I get to live with constant ringing in an ear that otherwise hears nothing.

  • I’m in the blown right ear category too but mine is due to having lots of ear infections as a child, some damage I did to myself to top it off by always being front and center at shows for years and then some slow degredatation due to age and Menieres. Too much salt seems to be the main trigger for the tinnitus although it does come and go and I can tell when I’ve lost some more hearing after another concert more easily these days although I never go front and center these days – I’m usually back of the house these days although I’ve yet to pick up the ear plugs at the doctors yet…it’s on the list.

    I hate the hearing aid. The world is just too damned loud with it on; even if it’s on a low volume. I’ve grown accustomed to the hearing loss and working around it although I do not like missing conversations although that happens less now that I work from home.

    The bonus though is being able to sleep on that ear and having near complete soundproofing! 😉 (pros and cons)


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