While their may be many contributing factors to hearing loss in out modern, noisy society, I have recently observed that beer and rockabilly, or a combination thereof, may result in permanent hearing loss. Even if one may be in denial about getting older ( no, I am not referring to myself) where high frequency perception drops dramatically, it is a known scientific fact.
Sound is transmitted to your inner ear via tiny sound receptors called Cilia. Excessive decibel levels kill these little guys and they do not regenerate. Sound pressure level is measured in dBa and an increase in 10 dBa results in twice the volume.
To give a few examples, a greaser quietly drinking a beer and writing a blog on his computer usually generates about 60 dBa. A bunch of filthy hippies bangin' on some bongos in a drum circle at 100 paces generate about 90 dBa. Some idiotic skank on a cel phone seated right next to you generates 100 dBa. A kick-ass band can usually generate 120 dBa and this where permanent hearing sets in. Dick Dale has usually laid claim, and rightfully so, to being the world's loudest band. They have been known to register 140dBa.
140 dBa has caused many people to pass out, but more importantly, has been proven to liquefy bowels upon direct exposure to these horrendous sound pressure levels.
Direct observation has led me to the conclusion that beer, Rockabilly and the ensuing aftermath seem to have a direct correlation to hearing loss and hearing impaired awkward social situations. Some of these moments can be the aural equivalent of beer goggles. Let me elaborate.
1. The Band Is Never Too Loud.
It has been scientifically proven that high frequency perception drops considerably after imbibing many drinks. This why that a greaser's distance to the speakers is inversely proportional to the amount of beers that he drank.
At one particular Viva Las Vegas, I witnessed an extremely drunk greaser who literally stuck his head inside a massive speaker. The headache and constant ringing in his ears the next morning must have been monstrous.
It's just that the more shit-house plastered that you get, the less loud the P.A. seems to get.
This the same reason why, after a night of drinking and rocking out, the stereo always seems to end up at maximum when you turn it on the next day.
This also explains why everybody is yelling at the top of their lungs at the bar where the band is playing. The loss of high frequency perception combined with the drunken band's ever increasing decibel level and the logarithmically increasing slurring of speech and and matching inability to understand said slurring, lead to a cacophony of incoherent bar conversations ( which will promptly be forgotten).
Booze will definitely lead to many mis-communicated intentions and skewed interpretations. You may think, that after the seventh beer, some beautiful women said " Come on over". But after saying "Huh" a few times, you then realize that she was saying. "Go away."
You make come close getting involved in a bar brawl simply because you didn't quite hear what some dude said to you. Sometimes "excuse me" sounds exactly like " fuck you".
Receiving your bar tab at the end of the night can also lead to confusing, and sometimes antagonistic situations. You are sure that the bar tender said $8.50. You think to yourself.," That ain't bad for a whole night's drinkin"." The bar tenders scowls and flailing arms eventually make you understand that there something amiss.
When it finally dawns on you that he said "$98.50" you will be taken aback and involuntarily let out something like " Whoa!' or . "Holy shit!". The bar tender will misinterpret this as a refusal to pay up on your part and more pointless conversation will follow.
He will get even more steamed as you slowly sift through the crumpled wad of bills and repeatedly attempt to count them. The contemptuous thank you that the bar tender will send your way will be completely lost on you, because you didn't even come close to hearing it.
Loud decibel levels will also occur in the cab ride home as you incoherently attempt to give the cab driver instructions for the quickest way home. The vivid map inside your head simply does not make it to your mouth. The cab driver will shout " What?" and in your alcoholic stupor you think that by saying it louder, it will make it easier to understand. " I shaid, take a right flurm an go plorf to ...um... over there."
3. At Home.
Playing guitar at home after several beers can also have muted hearing induced consequences. If you play acoustic, your monthly string budget will be high. It's that pesky high frequency drop again. You will be rocking along and after several beers, you can barely hear that acoustic guitar.
This will cause you to only thrash harder and strings will eventually break. This should be a sign to put down the guitar, because trying to put a fresh string on a guitar when you have been drinking is an exercise in futility. Even if you do manage to get it on the guitar after poking tiny holes in your fingers with the end of the string, you will never be able to tune it. Not even with a guitar tuner. At least the holes that you gouged into the body of the guitar with your manic wailing look cool.
Electric guitar drunk playing is fraught with even more dangers. You will curse your amp for not going to eleven and you will rig up all kinds of crazy pedals. The ear splitting volumes will eventually cause smoke to emanate from your amp as tubes and voice coils fry at very high temperatures. The added benefit of playing this loud is that you won't hear the cops that are knocking at your door. Even after the amp fries, the subsequent ringing in your ears will still be louder than the knocks at the door.
The ringing should subside the next day. As you gather your empty bottles to return them to the bottle depot, you will be the victim of yet another auditory assault. For some reason they toss all the glass bottles into large bins. The gut wrenching sound of all that smashing glass will only aggravate your hang over and possibly cause further hearing loss. Best to leave the empties on the sidewalk for the bums.
4. In The Shop.
Shops are noisy environments on any given day. Most greasers like to hang around the shop and drink beers. The shop stereo will be blaring, the compressor will start every 10 minutes and this will cause the drunken car conversations to get louder.
Around this point, greasers will want hear engines revving. They will be amused at the roar that straight pipes can deliver, especially within the closed confines of the shop. This also creates a situation where the boys are unaware of the fumes. Someone will eventually figure it out and stagger towards the door to open it.
Once their need to hear loud engines has been satisfied, it is usually time for another beer run. Inexplicably, this is also the time when the desire to hit metal objects with ball peen hammers arises. Drunken greasers laughing like hyenas reveling in the destructive powers of the ball peen hammer tend not to notice the extreme decibel levels. Boys will be boys.
5. Tune Out.
One the benefits of booze, loud rockabilly and excessive decibel levels is the annoying things that they may drown out. While it is impossible to eradicate every offending noise that is present in a big city, a good old fashioned rockabilly party can over shadow many of them. Psycho neighbors having having an argument , yappy little dogs and buses roaring by can easily be dispelled with an average rockabilly party.
You will need a really large party with a really loud band to completely drown out some of the more obnoxious noises of the city. Ridiculous street protests, Hare Krishnas loudly making their way down the sidewalk, yuppies whining about real estate prices and those stupid Japanese cars with racing muffler set ups can be dispersed, almost as if by magic, with the proper amount of Marshall amps.
There has yet to be made, however, an amp or stack of amps loud enough to completely attenuate the most annoying sound of them all; the hippie drum circle. This is the sonic equivalent to a skunk. You can never entirely get rid of and it's hard to ignore. The grating sound of 20 congas and bongos being played ineptly to the lurching pot-induced rhythm that only hippies seem to be able to produce, lingers in the air and clings to buildings. This does not cause hearing loss, only brain damage. Nobody has found an effective means of getting rid of this urban phenomenon, but I'm working on it.