If you’ve previously attended a modern rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’re getting old. This reaction could be your body’s way of telling you that you’re in danger of hearing impairment. If after the show your ears are ringing (tinnitus), or you’re unable to hear as well for several days, you’ve probably experienced NIHL – noise-induced hearing loss.
This could happen even after short exposures to loud noises, and occurs because high decibel sounds can result in structural damage to the very small hair cells which receive auditory signals in the interior of the ear and transmit the signals to the brain, where they’re interpreted as sounds. Luckily for most people, the noise-induced hearing loss they suffer following a single exposure to very loud music is not permanent, and disappears after a few days. But in the event that you continue to expose yourself to loud noise or music, it can cause tinnitus that doesn’t subside, or a long-term loss of hearing.
Two factors determine how much damage is done to hearing by contact with very loud sounds – precisely how loud the noises are, and the length of time you are in contact with them. Noise levels are measured on the decibel scale, which is logarithmic and therefore difficult for many people to understand; an increase of 10 decibels on the scale means that the sound at the higher rating is two times as loud. Thus the noise of noisy city traffic (85 decibels) is not just a little louder than the sound of normal speech (65 decibels), it’s four times louder. The decibel level at typical rock concerts is 115, meaning that these noise levels are 10 times louder than standard speech. The second factor that determines how much hearing impairment occurs from loud noise is the length of time you are exposed to it, what audiologists call the permissible exposure time. By way of example, exposure to sounds of 85 decibels can cause loss of hearing after only eight hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is less than 1 minute. Thus concerts are potentially dangerous, since the sound levels at some of them have been measured at greater than 140 decibels.
Estimates from audiologists say that by 2050 around fifty million people will have sustained hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud music. Concert promoters, since being made aware of this, have begun to offer concertgoers inexpensive earplugs to use during their concerts.One producer of earplugs even entered into a partnership with a British rock band to supply its earplugs to audiences for free. Notices are beginning to crop up at concert venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” Earplugs may, in reality, not be very sexy, but they might just save your hearing.
Any of our hearing specialists here is pleased to supply you with information regarding earplugs. In case a noisy rock and roll concert is in your near future, we strongly suggest that you think about wearing a good pair.