WHAT DO YOU hear when there’s nothing to hear? Seriously. I want to know. A quarter century of playing rock music—all variations on an aggressive, highly amplified strain found in the post-hardcore American underground of the ’80s and ’90s—is permanently inscribed in my inner ear. For me, it stays loud when things are quiet. When I wake up and shut down the white-noise machine, I hear one everlasting tone, which generally hovers around A. One recent morning, a different note—fainter than the root note, but easily discernible—pealed distinctly in the middle of my right ear, a lone stalactite hanging in a cave.
Music is forever, especially if you turn it up enough, and many 30- and 40-something indie-rock grads have long subjected their ears to truly astonishing stress. I liked to lean my forehead on my amp’s speaker enclosure when I played guitar. I liked the vibrations it sent into my skull. Sometimes, mid-song in my first band’s practice space, I’d stick my head in the bass drum. On tour in Europe in 1990, I ended one song each night by getting within inches of my (very loud) amp to produce some feedback. At times I’d get sudden spikes of treble that would turn my stomach and make me stumble, as if they’d briefly deranged whatever whorls of plumbing in my ears govern balance.
Extreme volume is nerd-macho. I couldn’t bench-press 250 pounds—actually, I couldn’t bench-press half of 250 pounds—but my band was much louder than yours. I sneered at those who wore earplugs at their shows. Earplugs turned the picture to black-and-white. Why would you do that? Onstage, your eyesight whiting out from the stage lights and your ears roasting from the decibels, the air seemed suffused with pure adrenaline. It lit you up like a city at night.
I finally started wearing earplugs onstage in 2002, after playing a particularly deafening show. When I went to bed that night, I heard not one but two distinct tones ringing in my right ear. Others have worse stories.
“I had a really weird experience playing our penultimate show,” says Pat Mahoney, the drummer for the just-disbanded LCD Soundsystem. “We started playing a song we hadn’t played in a long time. And it was so loud and my ears were so fatigued, it was like being snow-blind. I could tell there was tremendous noise, but I couldn’t identify any of it … It was fucking terrifying.” (Mahoney, as you may have guessed, wasn’t wearing earplugs.)“在我们倒数第二场演出的时候，我有一种很奇怪的感觉，”LCD Soundsystem的鼓手帕特·马奥尼说。“我们演奏了一首我们很久没有演奏的歌。这首歌的音量很大，可我的耳朵已经很疲劳了，几乎听不见声音。我知道我们的音量一定大得惊人，可我就是听不清...这太他妈可怕了。”（估计你已经猜到了，马奥尼在舞台上也不佩戴耳机）
I haven’t experienced anything that dramatic, aside from that feedback-induced near-emesis. But I have to lean in, far in, to hear people in noisy rooms. A meal or a drink somewhere loud means I lose my voice, especially if my wife isn’t there to remind me that I’m shouting in order to hear myself.我还没试过这么戏剧化的事儿，除了那音箱反馈引起的呕吐感。于是在嘈杂的房间中，我要是想听到别人说话，我就得靠过去，靠的非常近。要是在一些喧嚣的地方吃饭或喝酒，我说话的声音可能会突然变得很大，这样才能听到自己的声音，当我的妻子不在身边提醒我的时候这种情况更为经常。
When I visit an audiologist, Dr. Andrew Resnick, a guitarist who treats many New York musicians, he asks if I have trouble hearing: Left ear, right ear, both ears? (With background noise, both.) Ears ring? (Yes. But that doesn’t bother me too much.) How many hours a week on an iPod? (Maybe four.) Do I have a history of loud-noise exposure? (Heh. Yes. Lots.)
Over to the soundproof booth, where Dr. Resnick has me strap on some form-fitting headphones. The room is still and quiet. The ongoing symphony in my ears isn’t. This won’t work, I think nervously. I won’t hear anything over this ringing. The doctor plays a bunch of tones, low to high, quiet and quieter. He turns on background noise, like you’d hear at a bar or a party, and runs voices against it. He plays with the volume until the conversation I am supposed to decipher disappears in the clatter.
Here is where I’m supposed to say I’m sorry. Here is where I say we must respect the delicate membranes within our ears. Here is where I beg, in cloying tones, that we teach the children to learn from these mistakes.
Screw it. I don’t regret a thing. Sound transported us to places most people never get to see. When my old band got asked to reunite this year at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the U.K., our concerns centered on practice logistics and plane schedules, not on our battered eardrums. The old basketball star walks gingerly on aching knees. Me? My ears ring. I can’t hear a thing you’re saying in this noisy bar. And it turns out that my left ear’s hearing is noticeably weaker in certain frequencies—it has what ear docs call the “noise notch” that afflicts those exposed to serious sound. But I’m okay enough. If not, well, I accept the physical penalty without complaint. For now, at least.
得了吧。我才不后悔呢。那种声音把我们带到了一般人无法想象的境地。当的我老乐队今年被邀再次出山在英国的All Tomorrow’s Parties festival上面演出，我们关心的只是后勤保障和航班计划，那饱经沧桑的耳膜早被置之脑后。年迈的篮球明星会因膝盖的伤痛步履蹒跚。我？耳朵轰隆作响。要是在一间嘈杂的酒吧里面我可听不见你说的什么。原来我的左耳对某些频率的声音特别不敏感——这就是医生们所说的“噪音空隙”，它们困扰着那些在噪声下工作过的人们。可我还受得了。就当是毫无怨言地在承受这个肉体上的罚款。至少现在是这样的。
“I think I sacrificed some of my hearing to do this right,” LCD’s Mahoney tells me. “I have absolutely no regrets about that. But talk to me when I’m 60. It may be a huge bummer.”
After I visited Dr. Resnick, I called to interview him for this article, and at the end I asked if he’d worn earplugs onstage. “More often than not, no,” he admitted. “I found it a little difficult to wear them while performing, especially if you’re doing any singing.”
Maybe he’ll sort of understand, then, if we crank the volume all the way up, just a few more times, hoping nothing too bad will happen.也许他也理解那种感受。我们把音量调到最大，一次又一次这样做，但同时希望着这没啥不妥。
Jon Fine, a New York–based writer and advisor to digital ventures, is happily blowing his ears out with the reunited Bitch Magnet.本文作者：Jon Fine， 一个生活在纽约的作者，数码产品顾问，他很乐意与重新团聚的乐队Bitch Magnet一块儿用大音量冲击自己的双耳。