If you have ever been at a concert and thought “This music is simply too loud,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve gotten too old for this sort of music. It might imply that your body is trying warn you – that you are in a place that could impair your ability to hear. If, after you’ve left the event, and for the subsequent few days you have had a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or had trouble hearing as well as usual, you may have experienced NIHL – noise induced hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss can happen even after one exposure to very loud concert music, because the high decibel noises injure very small hair cells in the inner ear that receive auditory signals and translate them into sounds. Luckily for the majority, the NIHL they suffer after a single exposure to loud concert music is not permanent, and goes away after a day or so. However in the event that you continue to expose yourself to very loud noise or music, it can cause tinnitus that does not go away, or a long-term loss of hearing.
How much damage very loud noise does to one’s hearing is dependant upon two things – exactly how loud the noise is, and exactly how long you are in contact with it. Noise levels are measured on the decibel scale, which is logarithmic and thus not very intuitive; a rise of 10 decibels on the scale means that the sound at the higher rating is twice as loud. So the sound of noisy urban traffic (85 decibels) is not just a little louder than the sound of normal speech (65 decibels), it’s 4 times louder. The decibel rating at typical rock concerts is 115, meaning that these noise levels are 10 times louder than normal speech. Together with how loud the noise is, the second factor that impacts how much damage is done is how long you are exposed to it, thepermissible exposure time. Loss of hearing can occur from coming in contact with sound at 85 decibels after only 8 hours. At 115 decibels, the level of rock concerts, the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is under 1 minute. Therefore concerts are high risk, because the noise levels at some of them have been measured at greater than 140 decibels.
It has been predicted that as many as fifty million people will suffer hearing loss as a result of exposure to very loud music – either at live shows or over headphones by 2050. Live concert promoters, now that they have been made aware of this, have started to offer fans low-cost ear plugs to wear during their shows.One famous UK rock band actually collaborated with an earplug vendor to offer them totally free to people attending its concerts. Notices are beginning to appear at concert venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In all honesty, wearing earplugs at a concert may not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your ability to hear and enjoy future concerts it might be worthwhile.
Any of our hearing specialists right here would be happy to provide you with information regarding earplugs. If a loud rock and roll concert is in your future, we strongly suggest that you think about wearing a good pair.