If you’ve ever attended a modern rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is way too darned loud,” it does not necessarily indicate that you’re getting old. It might imply that your body is trying to tell you something – that you’re in a place that could damage your hearing. If later, after you have left the event, and for the next couple of days you’ve had a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or had difficulty hearing as well as usual, you may have experienced noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL.
This may happen even with brief exposures to high decibel noises, and arises because loud sounds can result in structural damage to the very small hair cells that receive auditory signals in the interior of the ear and transmit the signals to the brain, where they’re translated into sounds. Luckily for the majority, the noise-induced hearing loss they suffer following a single exposure to very loud music is short-lived, 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 a case of tinnitus that doesn’t go away, or a long-term loss of hearing.
The amount of damage very loud noise does to a person’s hearing is dependant upon 2 things – precisely how loud the music is, and exactly how long you are in contact with it. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that is somewhat illusory because it is logarithmic, meaning that every increase of 10 on the scale means that the noise is twice as loud. Noisy urban traffic at 85 decibels is thus not just a little louder than ordinary speech at 65 decibels, it is four times as loud. The decibel rating at normal rock and roll concerts is 115, which means these sound levels are 10 times louder than ordinary speech. The additional factor that impacts how much hearing impairment arises from very loud noise is the length of time you’re in contact with it, what audiologists refer to as the permissible exposure time. Loss of hearing may occur from coming in contact with noise at 85 decibels after only eight hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is under 1 minute. Add to this the fact that the noise level at some rock concerts has been measured in excess of 140 decibels, and you have a high risk situation.
Forecasts from audiologists say that by 2050 up to 50 million people will have sustained hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud music. Concert promoters, now that they have been made aware of this, have started to offer concertgoers low-cost earplugs to use during their concerts.One well known British rock and roll band even partnered with an earplug manufacturer to offer them totally free to fans attending its live shows. Notices are beginning to crop up at music venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” Earplugs may, in reality, not be particularly sexy, but they could possibly save your valuable hearing.
Any of our hearing specialists here would be very happy to supply you with information about earplugs. In case a high decibel rock concert is in your future, we strongly suggest that you think about wearing a good pair.