Friday, January 06, 2006

Who'll get fooled again?

Pete Townshend, the great guitarist/songwriter of The Who, warns about the potential harm done by frequent use of headphones in a "Pete's Diaries" post on his Web site.

It's not the loudness of the music he plays that has permanently damaged his hearing, Townshend says, so much as the use of headphones in the studio - and then he tosses out a warning about the increasing use of earphones and ear buds in our world:

"Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be repaired. 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. I only have long experience of the studio side of things (though I've listened to music for pleasure on earphones for years, long before the Walkman was introduced). But my intuition tells me there is terrible trouble ahead."

I can attest to his concern because I spent a couple of decades in the radio business. My habit was to drape the headphones so I was listening to the on-the-air signal with my left ear and my right ear was open to hear the other sounds around me. I now have significantly better hearing in my right ear than my left - it's not so bad that I need hearing aids, but it's a noticeable difference.

My thought for today is: In our litigious society, how long will it be before some slimy lawyer conceives a class-action suit against Apple on behalf of those too stupid to ignore warnings, who claim it never occurred to them that constantly placing their eardrums in close proximity to extremely loud sounds may make them deaf? After seeing the success of those who got rich by claiming they never knew smoking could wreck their lungs, anything goes.

By the way, cruising Townshend's site to find the post (which was mentioned in a news story) was fun, and I plan to check back there more often. Anyone who loved Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a spiritual friend of mine.


Anonymous John Newman said...

I don't buy Townsend's claim that his hearing loss was due more to studio headphones. Take into consideration that long before he was famous he was playing clubs for years and years at that ungodly volume and that volume increased as he went to bigger and bigger venues. There is no way that the volume of the headphones in a studio matched the volume of live performances with a two other banging as loudly as they could musicians.

I realize that the volume in the studio headphones is closer to the actual ear drum and the volume could cause problems, but I would bet money that his years of live performances caused him to need a higher volume in his headphones.

In other words, I think he is full of crap as to the cause of his personal deficiency.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Wally Conger said...

ANOTHER coincidence! I also worked in radio, but for a much shorter time than you. I was news director at Cal State Northridge's radio station (an NPR affiliate...ugh!)for a year, then worked another year at KABC radio in L.A. before moving to print and then to corporate journalism.

1:20 PM  

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