January 5th, 2006
It’s well-known that Pete Townshend of The Who has tinnitus, a hearing disorder. Listening to Live at Leeds, one would think that cranking those amps to 11 onstage did it but no. In a recent diary entry, he explains that it was headphones.
I’ve often said that although the Who have a reputation for being loud, as a live band we were usually only as loud as everyone else. We were, with Pink Floyd, simply one of the first UK bands to develop effective PA systems. People often confused the size of the rigs we started to use with loudness, not improved quality. By the way, this is not exclusively a British disease: the main leap in volume at live shows started in San Francisco with Bill Graham and the Grateful Dead.
But today, this very morning, after a night in the studio trying to crack a difficult song demo, I wake up realizing again – reminding myself, and feeling the need to remind the world – that my own particular kind of damage was caused by using earphones in the recording studio, not playing loud on stage. My ears are ringing, loudly. This rarely happens after a live show, unless the Who play a small club. This is a peculiar hazard of the recording studio.
The point I’m making is that it is not live sound that causes hearing damage.
Earphones do the most damage.
So be careful all you iPod users out there and don’t crank those ear buds to 11.
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