The Who’s legendary guitarist Pete Townshend has posted a public plea to
his personal Web site encouraging people to turn down the volume on their headphones.
Townshend’s own hearing loss is no secret; in the 1970s, he stopped touring with The Who after he discovered his own hearing was badly damaged. “I stopped touring and rock recording early enough to prevent the damage advancing too fast,” he wrote.
What many people may not know is that Townshend’s hearing loss wasn’t the result of The Who’s famously loud stage shows.
A recent experience in the studio reminded Townshend that his own hearing loss has diminished his ability to listen to music, and requires him to spend long, “infuriating … frustating and agonizing, but compulsory” periods in recovery.
“…my own particular kind of damage was caused by using earphones in the recording studio,” he said.
“The point I’m making is that it is not live sound that causes hearing damage,” Townshend wrote. “Earphones do the most damage.”
“If you use an iPod or anything like it, or your child uses one, you MAY be OK. It may only be studio earphones that cause bad damage,” Townshend explained.
“… But my intuition tells me there is terrible trouble ahead. The computer is now central to our world. If downloading has a real downside it may not be the fact that musicians will get their music stolen – in truth, they appear quite ready to give it away for nothing. The downside may be that on our computers – for privacy, for respect to family and co-workers, and for convenience – we use earphones at almost every stage of interaction with sound,” he said.