I got my first Discman when I was four in 1998. Ever since, I have had headphones on as much as I can – in the car, at school, at the gym… basically everywhere. I have been tuned out of life for so long that I simply forgot what a headphone-less life was like. Headphones turned to earbuds, and earbuds became blu-tooth, and I have made all of the transitions necessary to remain technologically relevant throughout the last two decades. However, I was recently told by an ENT that I have moderate genetic hearing loss in both ears, and that I should cool it with the headphone use. That means walking about the world and not drowning out the sounds of the everyday with "Fall Out Boy" and "Panic! At the Disco" songs. It has been roughly a week since being told I need to lessen my headphone usage, and this is pretty much what has happened.
The first day without headphone was right after my appointment when I went to the gym and worked out with my ears wide open. It was awkward at first to say the least. First of all, I had to listen to gym music, which isn’t terrible. They did play some of my pop-punk faves which made the experience a little easier. I have a hard time breaking a sweat to other people’s music. I need my fast paced music to get my heart pumping and the sweat dripping. I had a lot of trouble getting into my workouts. So, I moved from cardio to weights, and my experience got a little better. I was still able to hide in my phone if I felt weird, but I could get into my workout without the need for my own workout mix.
The next day, I went to school from 8 am-3:05 pm. On a normal school day, I usually wear headphones before my 8 am, on my walk to the dining hall where I get a coffee and do some homework, and during my lunch break when I watch a few episodes of Dragon Ball/Z/Super. It was easy-peasy up until lunch when I had to find a way to watch Dragon Ball Super without headphones on in the dining hall that plays very loud music in the first place. I relied mostly on subtitles, but the effects such as music and Goku’s fighting yell were missing, and I was unable to get into the episode like I wanted to. That was the only time I had trouble with not having headphone at school. The rest of the day, I was able to listen to the very odd conversations from passing students. I learned a lot, like people will almost always blame the professor for their bad grades even if they were the ones not doing what it takes to pass. I also learned that EVERYONE has drama – boys, girls, teacher, students, freshmen, seniors – everyone, and they’ll discuss it everywhere. It’s very entertaining, and it made me very happy that I only have two friends. I was also able to hear the birds chirping and other natural sounds that you normally don’t think about. Those sounds are often just taken to granted, but when you have no choice but to hear them you begin to appreciate them. It sounds cheesy, but give it a try. You’ll see what I mean.
The next morning, I hit the gym again. I took that opportunity use the Stair Master while I didn’t have headphones on. I am terrible with that machine. I am always afraid I am going to fall off of it, so I thought not wearing headphones would be one less distraction I’d have to worry about. I was somewhat right, but I still struggled to keep my balance on the machine. I did 10 minutes before I was like, "yeah, not happening," and got off. I did talk to a few people. A man started using a machine before I wiped it off, so I asked him if he wanted me to clean it. We had a chuckle, and I moved on to another machine. An older woman also asked me when I’d be done with a machine she wanted to use. I was irritated that she disrupted my work out routine, but she was nice about it. Had I been wearing headphones, I probably wouldn’t have talked to these people. I’d also probably never try to use the Stair Master only to realize I just suck at it.
Has my hearing improved since taking a break from headphones? No. Will it ever? Probably not, but I may slow down the hearing loss a little. I don’t want to be thirty and wearing hearing aids. I have been missing so much about life. I want to be able to hear birds chirping while I can still enjoy it. I want to keep listening to music and be able to hear what my nephew is saying to me. Headphones aren’t necessary on a daily basis. So, I advise everyone to go one day without headphones. It’s great. You’ll hear sounds you have never heard before, and you might just save your own hearing.