If you’ve previously attended a modern rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is just too darned loud,” it does not necessarily mean that you’re getting old. This response could be your body’s means of telling you that you are in danger of hearing impairment. If after the show your ears are ringing (tinnitus), or you are struggling to hear quite as well for several days, you have probably experienced NIHL – noise-induced hearing loss.
This could happen even after short exposures to high decibel noises, and occurs because high decibel sounds can cause structural damage to the small hair cells which detect auditory signals in the inner ear and send the signals to the brain, where they are interpreted as sounds. Thankfully for the majority, the NIHL they experience following a single exposure to very loud music is temporary, and goes away after a day or so. But if you continue to expose yourself to very loud music or noise, it can cause a case of tinnitus that does not subside, or a permanent loss of hearing.
A couple of factors determine how much damage is done to hearing by exposure to loud sounds – how loud the sounds are, and the period of time you are in contact with them. Sound 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 noise at the higher rating is twice as loud. Busy urban traffic at 85 decibels is thus not just a little louder than common speech at 65 decibels, it’s 4 times as loud. The decibel level at normal rock concerts is 115, meaning that these sound levels are 10 times louder than normal speech. The other factor that impacts how much hearing damage occurs from loud noise is the length of time you’re in contact with it, what audiologists call the permissible exposure time. As an example, exposure to sounds of 85 decibels may cause hearing problems after only eight hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is less than 1 minute. Coupled with the fact that the sound level at some concerts has been recorded at over 140 decibels, and you have a potentially dangerous predicament.
It’s been predicted that as many as 50 million people will suffer loss of hearing as a result of exposure to loud music – either at live shows or over headsets by 2050. Considering this, numerous live concert promoters and venues have begun offering sound-baffling earplugs to concertgoers for a minimal charge. One famous UK rock band even worked with an earplug producer to offer them totally free to people attending its live shows. Notices are starting to appear at concert venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In reality, sporting earplugs at a live concert may not really be sexy, but if they save your hearing it might be worth considering.
We can help to provide you with a pair. We recommend getting them next time you’re planning go to a loud rock concert.