If you have ever been at a live concert and thought “This music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve become too old for this sort of entertainment. This response could be your body’s way of telling you that you’re in danger of hearing impairment. If, after you’ve left the concert, and for the subsequent day or two you have had a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or experienced trouble hearing as well as usual, you might have experienced NIHL – noise induced hearing loss.
NIHL can happen even after one exposure to loud music, because the high decibel noises harm small hair cells in the inner ear that receive auditory signals and interpret them as sounds. Fortunately for most people, the noise-induced hearing loss they suffer following a single exposure to very loud concert music is temporary, and disappears after a day or so. But 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 subside, or a permanent loss of hearing.
A couple of factors determine how much damage is done to hearing by contact with very loud sounds – how loud the sounds are, and also the length of time you are exposed to them. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that can be difficult to comprehend because it’s logarithmic, meaning that each increase of 10 on the scale means that the sound is twice as loud. Noisy urban traffic at 85 decibels is therefore not just a little louder than common speech at 65 decibels, it is four times as loud. The decibel level at typical rock and roll concerts is 115, meaning that these sound levels are 10 times louder than ordinary speech. In addition to how loud the noise is, the second factor that impacts how much damage is done is how long you are exposed to it, the permissible exposure time. Hearing loss may occur from being exposed to sound at 85 decibels after only eight hours. In contrast, the permissible exposure time for noise at 115 decibels without risking hearing loss is under one minute. Add to this the knowledge that the noise level at some rock and roll concerts has been measured in excess of 140 decibels, and you’ve got a high risk situation.
It has been predicted that as many as fifty million people will suffer hearing loss due to exposure to loud music – either at live shows or over headphones by the year 2050. Live concert promoters, since being made aware of this, have started to offer fans low-cost earplugs to use during their shows.One maker of earplugs even entered into a partnership with a British rock band to offer its earplugs to audiences for free. Some concert attendees have described seeing signs in the auditoriums that proclaim, “Earplugs are sexy.” Earplugs may, in fact, not be very sexy, but they could possibly save your hearing.
We can help to provide you with a pair. In case a loud rock and roll concert is in your near future, we highly recommend that you think about wearing a good pair.