Falling on Deaf Ears

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I remember being young and dumb as fuck. Well, let’s be real, I’m still dumb, but as I near the ripe old age of 25 there are at least a few wisdoms I feel necessary to help impart upon the masses using this soapbox that is Gotta Dance Dirty.

It was very concerning last night, as I lay in bed with my TV on at a reasonable volume, to be perusing Facebook and see that Spinnin’ Records had posted a question to the mass of nearly a half million people who “like” the iconic label. It was short and simple, but I couldn’t help but be troubled by the response.

“Do you wear earplugs when you go partying? If yes, what kind of? If* not, why not?”

Harmless enough, but I started skimming through the responses, halfway knowing what to expect.

“earplugs are for bitches”
“No! If i kill my ears living my life, it’s fuckin’ worth it!”
“no ear plugs it robs from the feeling of the party!”

See the full post here.

Oh, the good ol’ days. Growing up, it was almost a point of pride to not be wearing earplugs. With a father in the music industry who does live sound for concerts and festivals, I have no idea how I got away with this. I used to want to be as close to the speakers as possible.

It feels good, I’ll admit it does. I remember standing on the front railing directly in front of a massive speaker stack at deadmau5 in 2007 (it was easy to get to the front row of his sets back then). Of course, there were a decent amount of responsible comments, but I’ll admit I felt the way a lot of the people on that thread of comments currently feel. That feeling, the immersive aspect of a wall of sound at 110db was part of the experience… and here I am now.

If you’re in the same boat as me, you would have sighed when you read the line above that said “as I lay in bed with my TV on at a reasonable volume” because you know exactly why. An incessant ringing in my left ear, formally known as tinnitus. The TV drowns it out (and on some level perhaps I believe I’ll be able to pay attention to SportsCenter in my sleep). It’s not overly obnoxious, I never notice it during the day, but nearly two years ago while trying to go to sleep it caught my attention.

In the past, it would happen after long nights out, but it had always gone away shortly thereafter. Not anymore. It had been around for too many nights in a row for me to brush it off anymore. I would lay up at night, actually severely concerned I was on my way to some real damage that would affect my ability to work in music, DJ, and just flat out enjoy the driving force of my life.

So I went to the doctor, an audiologist specifically, and spent a decent sum of money to me at the time on some quality musician’s earplugs that don’t have any effect on the overall sound of the music other then to take it down by 25 decibels.

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If you’re truly passionate about something, anything, then you’ll understand how I feel about music. To be so cavalier with your one shot at a solid set of ears is just plain ignorant, and frankly, disrespectful to those amongst us who have suffered through a life without sound. I had a good friend who I would take out with me a lot when I lived in Berlin. Despite being deaf from a young age, she spent many a night out, just feeling the bass and moving in unison with the crowd, always having a good time.

I hope she won’t mind me telling this story, but one night we were out seeing Felix da Housecat, at a club called Weekend, and she was in a state, just having the time of her life. I wrote a note on my phone that said “this girl is deaf and she still thinks you’re fucking killing it.” Felix smiled, grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the decks. He put her hand on the bass EQ on the mixer and helped her strategically cut the bass in and out for a few beats. She could feel and – on some level – hear the change. She was beaming. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, to see someone robbed of the ability to hear music how I hear music enjoying this thing I love so much.

The point of the story is to help you to build an appreciation for the gift of sound as you know it, the gift of talented artists who spend their lives crafting music, and the beauty of it as it is meant to be heard. Don’t be that person who in order to seem cool or tough scoffs at the idea of wearing protection for you ears.

Of course not everyone can afford musician’s grade earplugs. I will say though that I spent $150 on mine, and it was hands down the best money I’ve ever spent. There are of course cheaper alternatives, shit, I’ve seen people rip up toilet paper and stuff it in their ears. I’m not saying you have to wear anything, the choice is obviously your own to make, but at least be educated on the effects of too many long nights in a club or at a festival, and don’t go perpetuating your ignorance all over the internet.

If this helps some of you to make the decision to invest in protecting your hearing, I won’t think that I’ve wasted a second of my time writing this. And kudos to Spinnin’ for posing the question in the first place, it’s definitely a topic that needs to be addressed as clubs and sound engineers continue to pump the volume of dance music to new heights and the crowds get younger and younger.

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