If you’ve ever been at a concert and found yourself thinking “This music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have become too old for this kind of music. It could mean that your body is attempting to tell you something – that you are in a place that could harm your ability to hear. If later, after you have left the concert, and for the next day or two you have had a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or experienced trouble hearing as well as usual, you may have experienced NIHL – noise induced hearing loss.
NIHL can happen even after one exposure to loud music, because the high decibel noises harm very small hair cells in the interior of the ear that receive auditory signals and interpret them as sounds. Normally, the NIHL resulting from a single exposure to really very loud music or noise is short-lived, and should go away within a few days. 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.
How much damage loud music does to one’s hearing is determined by 2 things – precisely how loud the music is, and exactly how long you are exposed to it. The volume of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that is somewhat illusory because it is logarithmic, meaning that every increase of ten 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 normal speech at 65 decibels, it is 4 times as loud. The decibel level at normal rock and roll concerts is 115, which means these noise levels are 10 times louder than typical speech. In addition to precisely how loud the noise is, the other factor that impacts how much damage is done is the length of time you are exposed to it, the permissible 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 face the possibility of hearing loss is less than one minute. Coupled with the fact that the noise level at some rock concerts has been measured at over 140 decibels, and you’ve got a potentially dangerous situation.
It has been predicted that up to fifty million Americans will suffer hearing loss as a result of exposure to very loud music – either at live shows or over headsets by the year 2050. Considering this, several live concert promoters and venues have begun offering sound-baffling earplugs to concertgoers for a small charge. One famous UK rock and roll band even partnered with an earplug manufacturer to offer them free to people attending its concerts. Some concert attendees have described seeing signs in the auditoriums that proclaim, “Earplugs are sexy.” In truth, sporting earplugs at a concert may not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your hearing it might be worth considering.
Any of our hearing specialists here would be happy to provide you with information regarding earplugs. Consider getting them next time you’re planning go to a very loud rock concert.