If you’ve previously attended a modern day rock concert and found yourself thinking, “That music is just too darned loud,” it does not necessarily mean that you’re getting old. This reaction could be your body’s means of informing you that you are at risk of hearing impairment. If later, after you’ve left the concert, and for the following few days you have had a ringing in your ears or had difficulty hearing as well as usual, you might have experienced NIHL – noise induced hearing loss.
NIHL can occur even after a single exposure to loud concert music, because the loud noises injure small hair cells in the inner ear that receive auditory signals and interpret them as sounds. Fortunately for the majority, the noise-induced hearing loss they experience after a single exposure to very loud concert music is not permanent, and goes away after a day or so. However in the event that you continue to expose yourself to very loud noise or music, it can cause a case of that does not go away, or a permanent loss of hearing.
Two factors determine how much harm is done to hearing by exposure to very loud sounds – precisely how loud the sounds are, and the amount of time you are in contact with them. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that is somewhat illusory because it is logarithmic, meaning that each increase of 10 on the scale means that the noise is two times as loud. So the noise of noisy city traffic (85 decibels) isn’t just a little bit louder than the sound of ordinary speech (65 decibels), it’s 4 times louder. A rock and roll concert, at which the noise level is normally in the range of 115 decibels, is ten times louder than ordinary speech. Together with precisely how loud the noise is, the second factor that impacts how much damage is done is how long you’re in contact with it, the permissible exposure time. As an example, contact with sounds of 85 decibels can cause loss of hearing after only 8 hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you risk hearing loss is less than one minute. Add to this the fact that the noise level at some concerts has been recorded in excess of 140 decibels, and you’ve got a high risk situation.
Projections from hearing instrument specialists say that by the year 2050 as many as fifty million people in America will have sustained hearing loss resulting from exposure to very loud music. Concert promoters, since being informed about this, have begun to offer attendees inexpensive ear plugs to use during their concerts.One popular UK rock and roll band actually partnered with an earplug vendor to offer them free of charge to people attending its live shows. Notices are starting to crop up at music venues saying, “Earplugs are sexy!” In truth, sporting earplugs at a live concert may not really be all that sexy, but if they save your ability to hear and enjoy future concerts it might be worthwhile.
Any of us can help fit you with a pair. In case a high decibel rock concert is in your future, we highly recommend that you consider wearing a pair.