AT THE HEIGHT of their music careers, Mark McGrath and Huey Lewis had number one hits, top-selling albums, and jam-packed live tours across America and the world. McGrath, lead singer of alternative rock group Sugar Ray, is the voice behind popular 1990s songs “Every Morning” and “Someday,” while Lewis, who fronted the ’80s band Huey Lewis and the News, sang such pop hits as “Hip to be Square,” “Do You Believe In Love,” and “The Power of Love.”
Today, both singers are going deaf, a consequence of being constantly exposed to loud music during their heyday as rock stars. “It’s years and years and years of being on the road and being two feet in front of cymbals and drums, (high) frequencies,” McGrath told Daily Mail TV. Lewis, who was diagnosed with the inner ear disorder Meniere’s disease, told Vanity Fair, “I can’t hear music. It’s hard enough to hear speech. But music is impossible. The music is cacophony for me and now my hearing fluctuates.”
But you don’t have to be in a rock band to lose your hearing. Many people listen to music for hours at full blast through ear buds plugged into smart phones. Starting with a tolerable level, they slowly pump up the volume once their ears become desensitized. Before long, they are experiencing temporary hearing loss. Repeated long-term exposure to blaring music can result in tinnitus, an annoying ringing in the ears. It can also damage part of the inner ear or cochlea, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Once a person loses their hearing, there’s no getting it back. Makati Medical Center’s ENT Center, the Dr. Ariston G. Bautista Center, suggests ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss while still enjoying music.
• Lower the volume. “The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to decrease the volume of what you’re listening to,” Joseph Ray Richard R. Cedeño, MD, points out. How to know when loud is too loud? “If you’re listening to music on your ear buds or headphones and can’t hear what a person talking to you from arm’s length is saying, then that’s too loud,” he says.
• Limit your listening time. “Instead of listening to loud music for hours on your ear buds, take breaks every 30 minutes to allow your ears to rest,” says Dr. Cedeño. “You can also observe the 60-60 rule: Don’t go over 60% of the maximum volume for any longer than 60 minutes.”
• Invest in the right ear buds or headphones. “Noise-canceling earphones block out external sounds that interfere with your music,” says Dr. Cedeño. “With these type of earphones, you don’t have to increase the volume of your smart phone because your favorite songs will sound clearer.” Consider using over-the-ear headphones instead of in-ear or ear-plug-style models, too, says. “Over-the-ear headphones put distance between your inner ear and the speaker, sparing you from too-loud music,” Dr. Cedeño explains.
• Care for your ears. On its own, the ear is a self-cleansing organ that produces wax to prevent dust and harmful particles from getting into its inner parts. Still, it helps to treat it with tender loving care. “Instead of cotton swabs, use a damp towel to gently clean excess wax around the canal,” says Dr. Cedeño. “Towel-dry your ears after showering or swimming, as too much moisture in the ears attracts bacteria, which could attack the ear canal. If water gets into your ears after a dip in the pool or beach, simply tilt your head to the side and tug at your ear lobe to let the water out.”
“Exercise is also a good way to keep our ears in shape,” he adds. “Cardiovascular workouts like running, walking, and cycling get the blood pumping to all parts of the body, including the ears, keeping them healthy and working well.”