If you’ve ever attended a modern rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is just too darned loud,” it does not necessarily mean that you’re getting old. It could imply that your body is trying warn you – that you’re in a place that may harm your ability to hear. If following the show you’ve been left with a ringing in your ears (tinnitus), or you are unable to hear as well for a few days, you’ve probably experienced noise-induced hearing loss, abbreviated NIHL.
NIHL can occur even after one exposure to very loud concert music, because the loud noises harm small hair cells in the inner ear that receive auditory signals and translate them into sounds. Typically, the NIHL brought on by one single exposure to loud noise or music is temporary, and will go away within a few days. But in the event that you continue to expose yourself to loud music or noise, it can cause tinnitus that does not go away, or a permanent loss of hearing.
A couple of factors determine how much damage is done to hearing by contact with very loud sounds – precisely how loud the noises are, and also the length of time you are in contact with them. Noise levels are measured on the decibel scale, which is logarithmic and thus not very intuitive; an increase of ten decibels on the scale means that the noise at the higher rating is two times as loud. Noisy city traffic at 85 decibels is thus not just a little louder than ordinary speech at 65 decibels, it is 4 times louder. A rock concert, at which the noise level is commonly in the range of 115 decibels, is 10 times louder than ordinary speech. The second factor that impacts how much hearing damage arises from loud noise is the length of time you’re exposed to it, what hearing instrument specialists refer to as the permissible exposure time. As an example, exposure to noises of 85 decibels may cause hearing loss after only eight hours. In contrast, the permissible exposure time that you can be exposed to noise at 115 decibels without taking a chance on hearing loss is under 1 minute. Add to this the fact that the sound level at some rock concerts has been recorded at over 140 decibels, and you’ve got a high risk predicament.
Forecasts from hearing instrument specialists claim that by the year 2050 around fifty million people in America will have suffered hearing loss resulting from exposure to very loud music. Live concert promoters, now that they have been made aware of this, have started to offer fans low-cost ear plugs to wear during their shows.One popular UK rock and roll band even collaborated with an earplug vendor to offer them totally free to people attending its live shows. Notices are beginning to crop up at music venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In reality, wearing earplugs at a live concert might not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your ability to hear and enjoy future concerts it might be worth considering.
Any of us can help to provide you with a pair. In case a high decibel rock and roll concert is in your future, we highly recommend that you consider donning a good pair.