As reported in our sister paper City Pages, starting this weekend, all Minneapolis bars and clubs hosting live music will be required to provide free earplugs to concertgoers. 

This is an outrage! How dare the intrusive arms of the Minneapolis City Council erode our freedoms by groping our eardrums with their foam! 

Sorry, I got all Stephen Colbert there for a second. Seriously, though, this is a fantastic idea that Los Angeles should employ immediately.
How bad is the problem of hearing loss at concerts? A big problem. 

As we opined a few years ago, shows are too fucking loud, and there are real repercussions. Tinnitus, for one, that high-pitched ringing in your ears you hear after the music stops. (Or you turn your iPod off.) After your tiny little ear hairs have been abused enough you'll get chronic tinnitus, which is a genuine disability, and in which case the ringing never goes away.

For a few years now I've had chronic tinnitus, which means that I can't experience silence. Rockers ranging from Pete Townsend to Paul Stanley have suffered high levels of hearing loss, as well as untold numbers of fans who go to a lot of shows. That's how I got the tinnitus – I blame the 2011 Watch the Throne tour stop at Staples Center as the tipping point. My ears were ringing when I got home from that show, but, unlike previously, they never stopped.

But at least mine is not so bad as to be debilitating. I've become hyper-vigilant about earplugs (I keep a pair in my wallet) and unless I'm trying to sleep, I barely notice the tinnitus.

Others aren't so lucky. As we wrote before:

William Shatner blames the condition for breaking up his second marriage and says he considered suicide because of it.

Lots of fans bring their own ear plugs to show. But plenty of well-intentioned ones simply forget. Or don't realize the dangers. Or maybe don't have enough cash to buy some at the venue. 

All of which would be solved if venues gave out free earplugs. Don't ask me about the economics; in Minneapolis they solved that through corporate largesse

Whatever the case: A big, brightly-colored dispenser near the door would surely inspire huge numbers of fans to grab a pair. And then once others saw that it wasn't “lame-o” to stick them in their ears, they'd likely go for it themselves.

Before you know it, we're one giant happy society. Who can actually hear what we're saying to each other. 

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