Playing music might actually keep you from losing your hearing, or maybe not | Bleader

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Playing music might actually keep you from losing your hearing, or maybe not

Posted By on 09.14.11 at 11:31 AM

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Good news for aging musicians: according to a new study, people who play instruments seem to experience less of certain types of hearing loss as they get older. Researchers say that while the more musically inclined of us will still lose our ability to discern tones below certain volume (what's technically known as our "pure tone threshold") the same as anyone else, we're supposed to retain certain listening skills like "speech-in-noise," which in less technical terms simply means the ability to make out what people are saying in situations with lots of environmental noise, like cocktail parties and such.

Or maybe not. While the study's results seem interesting, I'm not sure that they'll hold true as musicians who came up in the modern era of abundant amplification get to the age where hearing loss starts kicking in in earnest. Jon Fine, an amp worshipper whose old band, Bitch Magnet, made a well-received racket in the 80s and 90s, recently wrote about his own seemingly considerable hearing loss. In a complete 180 to the above study's findings, he writes, "My ears ring. I can't hear a thing you’re saying in this noisy bar." Fine's actually proud of it in a certain way, like it's a badge of his devotion to noise making. Personally I'm OK with being seen in public wearing earplugs if it means less of having to shove the side of my head in peoples' faces and ask them to repeat themselves. The little bit I have to do that already is frightening enough.

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