Concerts and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Pack your Earplugs

“Rock and Roll Will Never Die” – Neil Young

Neil Young in “Neil Young Trunk Show,” directed by Jonathan Demme.

Neil Young in “Neil Young Trunk Show,” directed by Jonathan Demme.

That may be true, but it will take its toll on your hearing.

The investigators behind the Journal Sentinel 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. All the concerts measured over 100db with 110db typical as you get closer to the speakers.

In the Journal Sentinel’s report they compare their measurements to those recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safe duration standards for noise exposure. OSHA’s safe duration standards are as follows:

  • Sounds reaching 95 dB A, limit to 4 hours
  • Sounds reaching 100 dB A, limit to 2 hours
  • Sounds reaching 105 dB A, limit to 1 hour
  • Sound reaching 110 dB A, limit to ½ hour (this is at the speaker)

(Note: dB A refers to the decibel level measured utilizing an A-weighted sound level meter which measure the sound most comparable to how the human auditory system hears)

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 hearing damage.

The following are NIOSH’s safe duration standards – as you will see they are much more aggressive than OSHA’s:

  • Sounds reaching 95 dB A, limit to 1 hours
  • Sounds reaching 100 dB A, limit to 15 minutes
  • Sounds reaching 105 dB A, limit to 4 minutes
  • Sounds reaching 110 dB A, limit to 1 min 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 hour

So to put it into perspective, based on the Journal Sentinel’s data, if you were seated in the 10th row at the Whitesnake concert your time to listen safely without hearing protection is less than 1 hour. Anything over one hour is putting you at risk for noise induced hearing loss.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

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