If you have ever been at a live concert and found yourself thinking “This music is just too loud,” it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have become too old for this type of music. It could mean that your body is attempting to tell you something – that you are in a situation that may damage your ability to hear. If after the concert you’ve been left with a ringing in your ears (tinnitus), or you are struggling to hear quite as well for a couple of days, you’ve probably experienced NIHL – noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss can happen even after a single exposure to very loud concert music, because the loud noises injure small hair cells in the inner ear that receive auditory signals and translate them into sounds. In most cases, the NIHL brought on by a single exposure to really loud noise or music is short-lived, and will go away within a couple of days. However in the event that you continue to expose yourself to very loud noise or music, it can cause tinnitus that does not subside, or a permanent loss of hearing.
Two factors determine how much harm is done to hearing by exposure to loud sounds – how loud the sounds are, and the period of time you are exposed to them. Sound levels are measured on the decibel scale, which is logarithmic and therefore difficult for many people to understand; an increase of ten decibels on the scale means that the noise at the higher rating is doubly as loud. So the noise of busy city traffic (85 decibels) is not just a little bit louder than the sound of normal speech (65 decibels), it’s 4 times as loud. The decibel level at ordinary rock and roll concerts is 115, which means these sound levels are ten times louder than ordinary speech. The other factor that determines how much hearing impairment arises from loud noise is how long you are in contact with it, what audiologists call the permissible exposure time. By way of example, contact with sounds of 85 decibels can cause loss of hearing after only 8 hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is under one minute. Coupled with the fact that the noise level at some rock concerts has been recorded in excess of 140 decibels, and you have a potentially dangerous predicament.
Estimates from audiologists say that by 2050 around fifty million people in America will have sustained hearing loss resulting from exposure to very loud music. Concert promoters, since being made aware of this, have started to offer attendees inexpensive ear plugs to wear during their shows.One producer of these earplugs even created a collaboration with a British rock band to supply its ear plugs to attendees free of charge. Some concertgoers have described seeing signs in the auditoriums that proclaim, “Earplugs are sexy.” In truth, sporting earplugs at a concert might not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your hearing it might be worth considering.
Any of our hearing specialists right here would be pleased to provide you with information regarding earplugs. We strongly suggest getting them next time you’re planning go to a loud rock concert.