Jim Mathis

Friday, August 10, 2012

Is the music too loud?

Just about everybody who plays music or has any responsibility for sound has heard complaints of being too loud. Actually there is a logical explanation for this.

As we age our eardrums become less compliant. They become stiff like about every other part of our body. The symptoms show up in several ways. The obvious one is that soft or high frequency sounds become hard to hear. We have trouble understanding children or we have the TV cranked up high, or we miss a lot in conversations. We can adjust to this loss to a large degree with a hearing aid that amplifies the frequencies that we don’t hear.

Another way this condition shows up is that complex sounds such as music, especially at higher sound levels, tend to distort. The older eardrum and its associated components can’t react fast enough to transmit a clear sound to the brain. We think that the music is just too loud when the real problem is our hearing. The obvious solution is earplugs to reduce the sound level.

If or when I develop this condition I intend to carry a set of earplugs with me when I go to a concert. This is no different than putting on reading glasses to see fine print or to read street signs.

The problems arise when we don’t recognize the problem as a physical one and insist that the sound man is used to rock concerts, people mumble too much, or the printers intentional make the print too small.

My generation needs to get used to reading glasses, hearing aids, and earplugs. Complaining, stop reading, or stop going to hear live music is not a good choice.