If you’ve previously attended a modern rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’re getting old. This reaction could be your body’s way of informing you that you are in danger of hearing impairment. If following the concert your ears are ringing (tinnitus), or you’re struggling to hear as well for a few days, you’ve probably experienced NIHL – noise-induced hearing loss.
This may happen even with short exposures to high decibel noises, and occurs because loud sounds can cause physical damage to the very small hair cells which receive auditory signals in the inner ear and transmit them to the brain, where they’re translated into sounds. Typically, the NIHL resulting from a single exposure to very loud noise or music is temporary, and will go away within a couple of days. But repetitive exposure to loud sounds can cause the damage to become permanent and lead to ringing in the ears that never goes away or even in a serious loss of hearing.
Two factors determine how much damage is done to hearing by exposure to loud sounds – how loud the noises are, and the amount of time you are in contact with them. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that can be difficult to comprehend because it’s logarithmic, meaning that each increase of 10 on the scale means that the sound is twice as loud. Noisy city traffic at 85 decibels is therefore not just a little louder than normal speech at 65 decibels, it’s four times louder. The decibel level at typical rock and roll concerts is 115, meaning that these sound levels are ten times louder than standard speech. Together with precisely how loud the music is, the second factor that determines how much damage is done is the length of time you’re in contact with it, the permissible exposure time. Loss of hearing can occur from being exposed to sound at 85 decibels after only 8 hours. At 115 decibels, the level of rock concerts, the permissible exposure time before you face the possibility of hearing loss is less than a minute. Add to this the knowledge that the sound level at some rock and roll concerts has been recorded in excess of 140 decibels, and you’ve got a potentially dangerous situation.
Projections from audiologists claim that by the year 2050 as many as fifty million people will have suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to very loud music. With this in mind, many concert promoters and music venues have begun offering sound-baffling earplugs to concertgoers for a minimal charge. One famous UK rock and roll band actually worked with an earplug producer to offer them free to fans attending its live shows. Signs are beginning to appear at concert venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In reality, wearing earplugs at a live concert might not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your hearing it might be worthwhile.
Any of our hearing specialists right here would be very happy to provide you with information regarding earplugs. In case a high decibel rock concert is in your future, we highly recommend that you consider donning a good pair.