Enjoy Summer Concert Season Right

By the Better Hearing Institute

With at least another month-and-a-half left of summer concert season, we thought it would be a good time to remind music lovers to pack the earplugs. It’s an easy and smart way to make sure you can enjoy those tunes for years to come.

Bringing earplugs to that next concert is more than a good idea, it should be a must, says the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Millennials and teens especially should think twice about music volume because data show that hearing loss is on the rise in these age groups, which means they’re permanently losing some of their hearing at younger ages.

But take heart. Earplugs really can help. One study, carried out in conjunction with an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam last fall, found that festival-goers who wore earplugs were roughly five times less likely to have some temporary hearing loss than those who didn’t wear them. The earplug-users also were less likely to suffer from tinnitus afterwards.

Any sounds at or above 85 dBA for a prolonged period of time can be unsafe. The sounds at that Dutch music festival were at 100 decibels, pretty consistently, for 4-and-a-half hours. At that sound level, hearing damage can occur in just 15 minutes.

Luckily, earplugs are pretty easy to come by. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, usually can be found at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you can still hear music and conversation when they’re in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

The impact of noise on our ears

We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly—those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly.

Warning signs of too much noise

If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are the warning signs:

  • You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.

  • You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.

  • You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.

Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on July 19, 2016.

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Your Gym's Noise Levels Could Hurt Members


Andrea Boidman, the executive director for the Hearing Health Foundation, explained that hearing loss commonly results from prolonged exposure to noise levels at or above 85 decibels, and that gyms — specially group fitness classes — could be putting members at risk for hearing damage.

According to the Hearing Health Foundation, hearing loss is a common problem amongst the U.S. population.

The Hearing Health Foundation reported that “1 in 5 Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear,” and that “20 percent of the U.S. population aged 12 years and older has hearing difficulties severe enough to impact communication.”

“My guess is that most gyms, especially group classes, exceed 85 decibels,” said Boidman. “When you have prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels, you’re putting yourself at risk for extensive damage.”

“Prolonged exposure” is based on standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). According to Boidman, the EPA suggests that humans be prolonged to noise levels of 85 decibels for no more than 45 minutes. After that amount of time, damage is a possibility.

How can you discover what noise levels your gym or group fitness classes are producing? According to Boidman, smart phone apps are now reliable sources, many of which are free. “There are apps you can get for any smart phone that enable your phone to act as a decibel meter,” said Boidman. “They’ve been tested against professional equipment, and are pretty reliable.”

After completing a search on iTunes for decibel meter apps, 12 different apps popped up for iPhones and iPads. Similar results were produced when searching for decibel meter apps for Android smart phones.

Boidman stated that some clubs might be reluctant to sacrifice noise levels for the sake of gym or class energy, but that it’s not worth the risk to your instructors and members. “I’ve heard many instructors say that loud music is such a big part of the class experience, but it can really cause damage,” she said. And hearing loss is becoming more common. “1 in 5 teens now have hearing loss, and some of it is completely preventable, by limiting non-recommended noise level exposure,” Boidman explained.

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