Saw this post on BBC 6 Music and it was tied in with #WorldHearingDay which got me thinking as a person of hearing loss and how I engage with music.
My disability is a hidden one. You wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with me but when I was four years old, I was in hospital with meningitis which resulted in losing my hearing.
Since then, I have been wearing hearing aids. Thing about hearing aids is they help you hear but they don’t give you back the hearing you once had.
Which brings be back to the topic of being at a loud gig. I have been to many of these, some with my hearing aids in, others I have had to take them out due to the sheer volume.
Despite my hearing loss, I connect with music in a different way. I am hopeless trying to make out lyrics when I can’t make out the words but what gets me going is the beat and how I respond to it whilst at a gig.
I have been going to concerts since I was 18 and there are quite a few that stick out from memory that I look back on sometimes with amusement but in all seriousness being exposed to loud music can be detrimental to your health later in life.
First loudest gig I was at was to see AC/DC when they came to Belfast in 1991 at the King’s Hall. While the venue is not famous for its sound quality the band didn’t half blow the roof of the place with the loudest of the big bell ringing towards the end of the concert when they played Hell’s Bells. My ears were ringing for days afterwards!
One gig that made me think twice about being near the speakers was when I was in Dublin to see Sonic Youth at the Sunstroke Festival in 1993. The venue was Dalymount Park which is home to Dublin’s Bohemians Football Club. Me and my friends got down to the front and during their set I can’t remember if it was Thurston Moore or Lee Ranaldo stuck a screwdriver into their guitars causing huge feedback of noise.
At the time I didn’t think much of it, but it became more evident to me when I got home and went to work the next day. I couldn’t hear when picking up the phone. It was just static coming through the other side. I ended up going to audiology to get checked out and thankfully it was just a case of tinnitus which is not a very pleasant experience. I do get it from time to time but nowhere near as bad as that experience in Dublin!
Most people going to gigs usually put earplugs in. In my case I either keep the hearing aid in (depending on the volume) or take it out (if its too loud).
I witnessed this at a gig I was at Queen’s Students Union in Belfast in 2015 when I went to see Swans who were the loudest band I had ever seen. Puts the other two gigs in comparison.
When we got downstairs to the venue, the bands merchandise team were giving out free earplugs because it was totally recommended. They were not wrong! It was so loud it almost felt like an assault on the senses. It was even too much for me and I had to remove my hearing aid.
Ten Gigs That Were Loud
- Swans – Mandela Hall, 2015
- Sonic Youth – Dalymount Park 1993
- AC/DC – King’s Hall 1991
- Amen – NME Awards Show, Astoria London 2001
- Bob Mould – Oran Mor, Glasgow 2014
- Motorhead – Ulster Hall 2001
- Primal Scream – Tennent’s Vital 2002
- Ministry – Mandela Hall 2012
- Foo Fighters – Tennent’s Vital 2012
- Any Slayer gig I have been to
Music is an important part of my life. I don’t let my disability prevent me from enjoying music whether it’s at a live show or listening to music at home.
Some important tips on looking after your hearing:
- Keep the volume down
- Use earplugs in noisy surroundings
- Limit the time spent in noisy activities
- Use smartphone apps to monitor sound levels