… That Is The Question.
I refer to the age-old quandary that I’m sure many have faced when going to see a concert. Is aural protection a necessity? The question is a tough one to answer. On one hand, no one wants tinnitus that lasts for hours or days. Even worse, no one wants to end up like Foxy Brown. Hearing loss accumulates slowly over time, so often it’s difficult to notice until it’s too late. The sobering truth is that once those little hairs in our ears are gone, they’re gone for good.
On the other hand, the connection to whatever live music is being experienced is immeasurably better with no aural impediments. It just is. I’ve watched quite a few shows with earplugs, even more without. I’m beyond resolute in saying that the shows I felt a deep emotional/spiritual connection with were always the ones where I didn’t wear earplugs.
Sure, most earplugs provide good functionality, and you can hear pretty much all the sounds that emanate from the source (perhaps there are even sounds that one can hear with earplugs that one couldn’t if bare-eared), but there’s just something that’s lacking. It’s not the volume per se. I think it might be the energy. When you’re free of aural encumbrances, you’re closer to the source, where the connection to the band/singer seems so much more natural. I don’t recall ever having any goosebump moments at shows I wore earplugs to. I know I helped my hearing by wearing them, but I feel as though I missed out on the truest form of the experience.
I also think earplug manufacturers can do better — much better. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have an earplug that fits comfortably in the ear, doesn’t fall out, and offers protection yet doesn’t take anything (or much at all) from the experience. I don’t think we’re there yet, and that’s sad.
I believe another point worth nothing is that listening to music (or all sounds for that matter) is an art in itself, a talent that some have, and many can learn. It’s analogous to someone who has a fantastic palate, 20/10 vision, or acute olfactory abilities. I believe some can listen to loud music and not “ruin” their hearing because they don’t have to dedicate the full power of their ears to the endeavour. Whatever sounds come in, although fully internalized and experienced, don’t tax the ears and those little hairs that allow us to hear. Who knows, maybe I’m way off with that idea, but I don’t think I am.
In the end, to earplug or not is a personal choice. One has to be aware of the consequences of frequenting concerts without protection. Though the connection to the art is always better for me when my ears are free of encumbrances (there’s a condom joke in here somewhere), there are risks to living on that edge. Ideally, earplugs would offer comfort and stability while taking nothing away from the experience. I’m looking at you Google. Help.