Do you think the world is getting louder? I sure do. Movies, sporting events, restaurants, even walking down the street — all louder than it used to be. I guess I am getting older, so that could be part of it, but I also think that culturally, loud has become the norm. If things aren’t loud, they are somehow deemed old-fashioned, or boring, or dull. It’s almost as if loud has become equivalent to fun! That is a problem given the misunderstood risks of hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds. Hearing loss is permanent — there is currently no cure — and the associated tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can almost be worse.
The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. A friend of mine was at the movies last week with her children to see Cinderella and couldn’t believe how loud the previews were, let alone the movie. And it was a children’s movie! She eventually asked the theater to turn down the volume, but I’m not sure she had much luck.
I have had the same experience at a Broadway show. I took my children to see Wicked (a fabulous show by the way!) but it was incredibly loud! Much louder than I remember Broadway being. Even my 9-year old son, was holding his ears at certain parts until I found the earplugs I always keep stashed in my purse.
Studies have shown that when loud music is played at restaurants and bars, patrons eat and drink faster, and therefore purchase more drinks, the highest margin part of the meal. I can understand wanting to drive revenue, but putting your patrons and staff in harm’s way is not a good option. Shouldn’t there be rules and guidelines advising restaurants and other public venues on safe levels of sound?
There have even been loudness contests at sporting venues. I think the current record is held by the Kansas City Chiefs at 142 decibels. This is equivalent to the sound of a jet taking off and can damage hearing in less than 1 minute of exposure. The irony is that most stadiums don’t allow smoking any longer due to strict second-hand smoking laws. What about second-hand hearing loss?
All this loudness is very frustrating for someone with hearing loss. Not only does it make it incredibly unpleasant to be out and about, but it makes it unsafe for others, oftentimes without their knowledge. We need to continue to educate employers, government officials, schools and our friends and families about the risks of hearing damage. And especially our children.
Readers, how can we help change the view that things need to be loud in order to be fun?