| Oct 21, 2011 |
With the summer concert
series in full swing, there’s a
lot of happy couples spreading
out blankets on the lawn, opening
a nice bottle of merlot to enjoy music
under the stars. You packed the pate
and crackers and a couple of low beach
chairs to enjoy a few hours of music
under the stars. Millions of people
attend these concerts each summer...
they’re fun. But hate to ruin this idyllic
evening with a little dose of reality. You
can damage your ears permanently in
less than three hours of loud (really
loud) music – the kind you hear at summer
The Problem is the dBs
The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
recently reported on sound pressure
levels at outdoor concerts. Sound
pressure levels are how loud the sound
gets depending on where you are seated
at the concert. The numbers won’t surprise
you until you understand the impact
these high dB rock gatherings have
on your hearing, whether you’re 18 and
getting as close as you can to the 10 foot
wall of speakers, or a 55-year-old taking
the grandkids to see No Doubt. (Aren’t
The report used sound-level measuring
gear at different locations for different
groups and gauged the sound levels
to every day sounds for easy comparison.
As seen in the previous chart, the levels
recorded at these concerts are quite high and when compared to sounds we
would never want to sit and listen to for
very long such as chain saws, subways
and airplane jets the numbers are surprising.
For example, if someone sat
near the speaker at the Hey Chap concert
the noise they were exposure to
would be equivalent to having a chainsaw
running next to their ear. Ouch!
“Rock and Roll
Will Never Die” Neil Young
That may be true, but it will take its
toll on your hearing.
The investigators behind the Journal
Sentinel’s report used standard sound
pressure level measuring equipment to gather the data on just how much music
the typical concert goer gets during a few
sets by their favorite groups. So, you’re
thinking, rock is supposed to be loud
and you don’t do it all the time and it’ll
only be for two or three hours (don’t forget
the opening act) so why not, right?
Well, the fact is, sounds this loud can actually
do permanent damage to the hearing
mechanism in as little as 60 minutes.
Noise experts and hearing professionals
follow The National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH)
best practices for safe duration noise exposure
- which are much more aggressive
than OSHA standards.
NIOSH best practices suggest a noise
of 95 dB A would only be safe for <1
hour (not 4 hours as suggested by
OSHA). NIOSH’s best practices recommendations
are based on recent research
demonstrating noise 95 dB A for more
than an hour has the chance to cause
The following are NIOSH’s safe
- Sounds reaching 95 dB A, limit to
- Sounds reaching 100 dB A, limit to 15
- Sounds reaching 105 dB A, limit to 4
- Sounds reaching 110 dB A, limit to 1
minute 29 seconds
No matter which best practice standards
are utilized, both translate into the
same message: concerts are loud and will
cause damage if hearing protection is not
worn given the fact that levels at most
concerts are well over 95 dB A and persons
attend a concert for well over an
Education is The Answer
If we don’t take steps to protect our
hearing continued exposure to loud
noise – like the noise you hear at a summer
concert – can cause permanent-youhave-
it-forever hearing loss in as little as
So, what can you do to protect the
hearing that you still have left? Common
sense comes into play, here.
Sit in the back rows. Don’t rush to get
as close as you can to the wall of speakers.
Give your ears a little bit of a break
to avoid damaging your hearing for the
rest of your life. Is it worth it?
Notmuch of a decision, is it?
- Give your ears a break from the constant
assault of a marathon music fest.
- Sit off to one side or the other of the
stage so the woofers and tweeters don’t
hit you smack in the ear drum.
- Most importantly get specially filtered
custom earplugs for music which allow
you to protect your hearing while stil
enjoying the quality of the music.
- Finally, if you have been at the concert
for multiple hours unprotected and you
hear a jingle in your ears leave early. It’s
the long-term exposure to loud music
that causes hearing loss so shorten the
term – even if it means you miss the
three encores. Your long-term hearing is
more important than any concert.
Rock on! Just do it wisely now.
Article taken from Health Hearing Aug.
For more information on NIOSH
Noise Standards please visit: Criteria for a
Recommended Standard: Occupational