Keeping Your Ears Safe at Concerts
Concerts and music festivals are places where you can enjoy your favourite genres, discover new artists, and hang out with old and new friends. However, they’re also the setting for an insidious danger: noise damage. While many people, especially teenagers and young adults, wave off the risks of attending concerts without hearing protection, they might come to regret this later in life.
In fact, most people who attend high numbers of concerts and other events later experience some level of hearing loss. This article will touch on why this happens, how to gauge noise levels, and how to protect your hearing. It’s never too early to begin thinking of your ears, especially in the current age of concerts, headphones, and loudspeakers.
How Noise Exposure Harms Your Hearing
Noise damage can come from different sources. Many army and airforce veterans experience hearing loss due to the sounds of gunfire, heavy artillery, and aircraft. Musicians in concert circles develop hearing loss after working alongside loudspeakers, heavy drums, and screaming crowds. Recently, we have also seen tinnitus, a symptom of hearing loss, caused by things like headphones and loud music.
Hearing loss can occur due to ear damage from loud noise. The constant battering of sound begins to wear on your ears, damaging the cochlea. The cochlea is responsible for processing pitch and volume. When the cochlea fails to function, you fail to hear. Many people with ear damage report being unable to hear certain pitches or struggling to hear below a certain volume.
While hearing aids can alleviate hearing loss to a large degree, hearing loss prevention is the only way to truly maintain your current level of hearing. Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common form of hearing loss, is irreversible and can happen to anyone. For that reason, you should wear hearing protection whenever things get too noisy. If you’d like to learn more about sudden sensorineural hearing loss, check out our more in-depth article here.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Many people, especially those that commute or live in urban areas, are constantly surrounded by sound. Traffic, dogs barking, neighbours, and even the background noise of televisions or music can fill the air at every hour of the day. When you become extremely accustomed to sound, you stop noticing how loud it is. That’s why someone from a rural area might find city life way too noisy and upsetting.
However, desensitising yourself to noise has a huge downside: you might fail to gauge how loud is too loud. Some people might consider a noisy party to be too loud, while others might shrug their shoulders at the high volume of a concert. Regardless of how you personally feel about sound, it’s important to use protection when things get above a certain number of decibels.
Here’s a quick guide on how to estimate decibel volume:
- 70dB or lower: Conversation can be held & understood at normal volume. This is fine.
- 85dB: A little loud. Don’t stay in situations like this for longer than 8 hours.
- 90dB: Limit your time to two hours.
- 100dB: You have to shout to hear your conversational partner. Don’t stay longer than a half-hour.
- over 100db: You cannot hear other people, even when shouting. Always have protection in these situations.
If you find yourself at a concert where the noise levels rise above 90dB, make sure to wear protection if you plan on staying. With this in mind, let’s move on to the different forms of concert hearing protection.
Protect Your Hearing During Concerts
When it comes to protecting your hearing during concerts, you have two options: stay home, or wear earplugs. No-one wants to give up their hobbies in fear of eventual hearing loss, so earplugs are the better option. However, many people frown at these and call them a hassle. Chances are, they haven’t used a good pair of earplugs yet.
Foam earplugs are not fitted and tend to be flimsy and uncomfortable. While they are cheap and disposable, many people get frustrated and take them out, which defeats the purpose. For the best experience, you’re better off buying a pair of permanent earplugs for concert use. Like earbuds, these come in many different shapes and sizes to best accommodate you. Buy a pair or two, and make sure to put them in when things rise above a certain volume.
Luckily, these tend to be cheap, so if you lose them during a chaotic festival, you won’t feel too bad about it. Just make sure to pick up another pair before the next event. While it might take some time getting used to, earplugs are extremely important for your aural health. It might seem silly to wear earplugs to a music concert, but you won’t be missing anything but noise damage.
It’s also important that you give your ears a rest after a long concert. Don’t turn on more music in the car, don’t watch TV when you get home, and avoid loud places for the next few days. Give your ears time to recover before jumping back into noisy situations! If you’d like more tips on how to protect your hearing, check out the Signia article on this topic.
Staying on Top of Your Hearing Health
Regardless of how well you take care of your ears, getting tested from time to time is part of the upkeep. As we age, we naturally lose some of our ability to hear. However, the severity of this hearing loss varies from person to person. It’s important that you get tested often to catch any hearing loss early.
While an audiologist is the only one who can give you definitive results, online tests like the Signia hearing test can give you an idea of what your hearing is like. With a pair of reliable headphones and a quiet location, you can do a quick check of your hearing for free. If there are any issues, you can schedule a full hearing test with your doctor.