If you’re out one night at a concert and find yourself thinking “This music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ve gotten too old for loud music.
This reaction could be your body’s means of informing you that you are at risk of hearing loss. If after the event your ears are ringing (tinnitus), or you are not able to hear quite as well for several days, you have probably experienced noise-induced hearing loss, abbreviated NIHL.
This can happen even with short exposures to high decibel noises, and arises because loud sounds can cause physical damage to the tiny hair cells which detect auditory signals in the interior of the ear and send the signals to the brain, where they are interpreted as sounds. Normally, the noise-induced hearing loss brought on by one single exposure to loud music or noise is short-lived, and should go away within a couple of days. However in the event that you continue to expose yourself to very loud music or noise, it can cause tinnitus that does not subside, or a long-term loss of hearing.
The amount of damage loud noise does to a person’s ability to hear is determined by two things – precisely how loud the noise is, and exactly how long you are exposed to it. Noise levels are measured on the decibel scale, which is logarithmic and thus not very intuitive; an increase of ten decibels on the scale means that the noise at the higher rating is two times as loud.
Thus the noise of busy city traffic (85 decibels) isn’t just a little louder than the sound of normal speech (65 decibels), it’s four times as loud. The decibel rating at typical rock concerts is 115, which means these noise levels are ten times louder than typical speech. The second factor that impacts how much hearing impairment occurs from very loud noise is the length of time you are exposed to it, what audiologists call the permissible exposure time. Loss of hearing can occur from being exposed to sound at 85 decibels after only 8 hours.
In contrast, the permissible exposure time that you can be exposed to sound at 115 decibels without taking a chance on hearing loss is under one minute. Add to this the knowledge that the noise level at some concerts has been measured in excess of 140 decibels, and you’ve got a high risk predicament.
Estimates from audiologists claim that by the year 2050 as many as fifty million people in America will have sustained hearing loss as a result of exposure to very loud music. With this in mind, many live concert promoters and concert venues have started providing sound-baffling earplugs to concertgoers for a nominal charge. One famous UK rock band actually partnered with an earplug producer to offer them free to people attending its live shows. Notices are starting to appear at concert venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In all honesty, wearing earplugs at a live concert may not really be all that sexy, but if they save your hearing it might be worth considering.
Any of our hearing specialists here is very happy to supply you with information about earplugs. Consider getting them next time you’re planning go to a live rock concert.
Hearing Healthcare of Virginia
Hearing Healthcare of Virginia is offering complimentary hearing screenings at its six locations in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia – Charlottesville, Covington, Culpeper, Fishersville, Harrisonburg, and Lexington.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (866) 341-4327.
More online at www.HearVirginia.com.