Roger Daltrey's Hearing Loss: Who's Sorry Now

At a recent concert in Las Vegas, Roger Daltrey urged his fans, “I advise you all, all you rock’n’roll fans, take your f***ing ear plugs to the gigs.” Daltrey, age 74, admits that he's “very, very deaf” and relies on reading lips. While most people lose some hearing as they age, years and years of loud music has most likely caused profound hearing loss in The Who's lead singer. Sadly, it's a condition that might have been preventable. “If only we had known when we were younger.”

In May of 1976, The Who performed at The Valley in London. After that concert, they were listed as the world's loudest band in The Guinness Book of Records. The sound at the show was recorded as 126 dB measured about 100 yards from the front speakers — about 41 dB above the level deemed safe to avoid hearing damage (85 dB). Bandmate Pete Townsend has suffered severe hearing loss for years, and according to Daltrey, is “almost stone deaf.”

Hopefully, people are more aware of the dangers of loud music. Many concerts are limiting the levels, and many venues offer free hearing protection. But concert-goers are ultimately responsible for protecting themselves. Many companies are making “audiophile” hearing protection that bring down overall levels without completely muffling the sound.

The real danger these days is the prevelence of earphones, headphones, etc. Sure, most phones and music players carry warnings about the dangers of loud listening levels if you turn up the volume too high. But how many people actually heed those warnings? It's so easy to turn it up just for your favorite song. But who turns it down afterwards? Also, with music coming from so many different sources, it's easy to start out at a reasonable level but then head towards the danger zone if you switch sources or tracks.

Protect Your Hearing Now
How can you protect yourself? Take a break every once in a while. Your ears get used to loud levels — almost desensitized, and you don't realize how loud it might be. Take off your headphones and give your ears a chance to rest and normalize. Turn down the volume when you start listening again. There are also a few new bone-conducting earphones on the market that don't cause the same damage that in-ear earphones can.

Finally, invest in good-quality headphones and earphones. You'll be less likely to crank up the volume to dangerous levels if the sound is truly balanced. There's also less chance of damaging high frequencies if the headphones aren't distorting the high-end. Think how uncomfortable it is to listen to really horrible headphones — that discomfort might be the early stages of damage.

Listen, we're all here because we love great sounds. Be it live concerts or phenomenal recordings. Let's all do what we can to make sure we have years and years of enjoyment of those incredible sounds. Who knows what concert we'll want to enjoy next? As for Roger Daltrey, he told his audience that he plans to continue performing “for a long time; I am lucky to be doing what I do, so thank you.”

eugovector's picture

Spend $12 on earplugs with level attenuation, like etymotic, and you will be more likely to use them.