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Bassist John Illsley sparks hearing awareness

My Bloody Valentine has partnered with Earplugshop to combat hearing loss at rock concerts. EarPlugShop is an organization dedicated to protecting hearing. Spokesperson Shaun Thornburgh said he respects the “ear-splittingly loud” rockers for tackling this very serious issue: “The band is highlighting how important it is to protect ears from damage which, once set in, is irreversible.”

My Bloody Valentine started the initiative after John Illsley, former bassist for Dire Straits, revealed that his hearing has been affected by loud music.

“After every gig, my ears would be ringing loudly for at least an hour – ears are particularly sensitive to pumping bass,” says Illsley, now 60.

“As the Straits became more successful we could afford better equipment and the stage sound was more controllable but the ringing was still there after every show. Playing a stadium filled with 50,000 people for years on end was, for me, going to work.

“In the early days of the Straits the sound systems were primitive,” he recalls. “You had the PA speakers which faced the audience and a monitor speaker on stage for each band member so he could hear the mixed sound that came through it.

“There were no noise regulations as there are now, so all four of us – Mark and David Knopfler and our original drummer Pick Withers – turned up our monitors to the maximum volume, as did every other band we came across.

“I would turn mine up as much as I could because I didn’t want to be drowned out by the drums.

“When you consider that, at the time, we were in very small venues where the stage might be just 12ft wide you’d be practically on top of the drum kit anyway, so it’s not difficult to imagine the impact this had on our hearing.

“By the Eighties there was a certain amount of health and safety legislation regarding noise levels and often someone from the local council would be measuring the decibels and trying to edge us down in volume, usually unsuccessfully.”

The Daily Mail has protective methods listed for protecting your hearing. They warn that the current generation of iPod listeners may be at risk for hearing loss later in life.

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