Is Your Favorite Band Making You Deaf?

When volume gets loud at a concert, who is responsible for the health of your ears? The band? The venue? Or you yourself?
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I go to a lot of shows. It wouldn't be crazy to say I've seen parts of at least 250 shows this year in venues ranging from parking lots to art museums, nightclubs to arenas. One trend is overwhelming: volume is increasing everywhere. It's so noticeable that I've started to wear earplugs.

I hate earplugs. Earplugs dull the sound. Some work better than others, but I still hate them. Still, they feel like a necessary evil in the face of increasing volume, ironically meant to make the sound of live music better. Truth be told, a safe loud volume serves a better purpose than a painful volume that forces me to wear earplugs.

I'm not trying to kill the fun. I'm not being old. Sound systems are better than ever, so live sound today is louder, and electronic instruments have a purer sound that is more piercing and stunning, than ever.

So who's responsible here? Is it the band for cranking up the music to the point of damage? Is it the venue that puts people in a position of coming out to hear music and then blasting them with a volume so loud that a chunk of the audience has ringing ears the next morning, for the next week or worse? Or am I responsible? Should I be expected to wear or at least carry ear protection when I go to a show? (Most venues sell foam earplugs for a small fee.)

I'm going to say it's the venue. They should know their sound system, what it's capable of and where the danger zone might be. They should know that the volume should be at a level not harmful to people standing right under their big stack of speakers. Or design a club like some I've been to where the sound is dispersed amongst a number of speakers around the rooms so there's not a pair of hot spots but a nice loud but not painful sound. And though I put the responsibility on the clubs, they're your ears and you only get one pair, so carry protection and wear them when you feel you need to. And complain too: let a club know when the volume is out of control. I'm going to start.

Have you noticed clubs getting louder? Do you wear earplugs? Do you have a favorite kind?

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