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Talking 'Bout the iPod Generation
Thursday, January 5th, 2006 at 4:00 PM - by
Pete Townshend of The Who is famously deaf -- actually, he has tinnitus, a symptom of which is some hearing loss -- the famous part coming from the well-known fact that said hearing loss came from the incredibly loud live performances of The Who. Not so, says Mr. Townshend in a recent blog entry (noted through an article at The Motley Fool); the real culprit was listening to music through headphones (or earphones), and that means danger ahead for the iPod generation.
Mr. Townshend, a guitar and songwriting hero for this reporter, said that contrary to public perception, The Who played no louder than any other band.
"I've often said that although the Who have a reputation for being loud," he wrote, "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."
This, despite the fact that for some time, The Who had the Guinness Book of World Records record for being the loudest rock band, having clocked a performance at some 130 decibels.
Be that as it may, Mr. Townshend said that his own hearing loss developed from extensive recording sessions where he utilized headphones, and from listening to music for pleasure through headphones as well. Of course, Pete Townshend is a guitarist, songwriter, singer, writer, and publisher, not a doctor, but he has worked extensively to rehabilitate his hearing, and may speak with more authority than your typical musician.
The point of his blog entry, however, was to warn iPod users of the potential dangers from blaring music in your ears for hours on end through earphones.
"If you use an iPod or anything like it," he wrote, "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. 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."
Such warnings have also come from UK doctors and Australia's Ministry for Ageing, who have both warned iPod and other digital media device users to turn the music down.
For fans of The Who, the blog entry was sparked in part because Mr. Townshend has been spending time in the studio writing new material for the band, or what is left of it, and a subsequent 2006 tour. As part of that process, he has been frustrated with the need to rest his ears for 36 hours between sessions, a sever interruption of the writing and demo-recording process.
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