By Emilio Cortez, Ed.D
Wedding day celebrations often include music, but when music is too loud, you and your guests may experience hearing loss as a result. The problem of loud music is rampant and has contributed to the growing number of 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss.
Many bands and disc jockeys play music at 100 decibels (dB). If you’re not wearing earplugs, 100 dB can cause hearing loss in just 14 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A telltale sign that music is too loud is when you need to shout to the person next to you just to be heard. If the music at a wedding is played consistently at 90 dB of loudness, hearing loss can occur after two hours of exposure.
Since we are all the targets of dangerous decibels, we need to remember, “Be decibel-wise: under 85 keeps hearing alive.”
When interviewing bands or DJs for a wedding, insist that you want the music to be no louder than 80 dB—and then be prepared for bewildered faces. Since many musicians and DJs are accustomed to playing very loud music, some of them have already lost hearing, so 80 dB won’t seem loud enough; an alternative plan would be to make earplugs available to your guests (see below).
The louder music is played, and the more guests that attend a wedding, the louder guests must talk to converse which adds to the total loudness. You may want to appoint a wedding helper to monitor the music’s loudness and to remind musicians to turn down the volume as needed. Also, by having the music alternate between loud songs and softer music, you can give your guests and their ears a healthy rest from potentially dangerous decibels.
Many free decibel meter apps are available for both Apple and Android smartphones. You can check it for accuracy by talking into it in a normal speaking voice. You should be getting a reading somewhere between 60 and 70 dB, which is a normal reading for conversational speech. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has blogged about the accuracy of decibel meter apps.
If you choose to use earplugs that conform to your ear canal size, refer to the YouTube video, “Fitting Foam Earplugs.” In essence you want to roll the earplug down to toothpick size and then insert it into your ear, allowing it to expand in order to provide the most effective hearing protection.
My daughter is getting married this August, and I had her share this information with the prospective DJ so he knows exactly what I will be expecting as the father of the bride! Noise is the most preventable cause of hearing loss. Don’t squander it on your wedding day.
Emilio Cortez, Ed.D., is a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America of Pennsylvania and a co-chair of its Turn Down the Volume Committee.