Everyone knows rock concerts are loud. That is part of the experience. I don’t go to too many concerts anymore, because of my hearing loss. But when I do, I use strong protections against the noise — I mute my hearing aids and use noise-cancelling headphones. Believe it or not, I can usually still hear the music just fine! As I look around the concert, I see some people wearing earplugs or earmuffs too. I wish there were more. Perhaps they don’t understand the risks.
Prolonged exposure to any sound at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss, and once your hearing is damaged, it is permanently impaired. Loud noise exposure kills the delicate cells inside the cochlea of the inner ear, and once they are gone, they do not grow back. Loud noises can also cause tinnitus, the sensation of buzzing or ringing in your ears when no sound is present. You may have experienced this after a particularly loud night out. Sometimes it goes away, but with increased exposure, it can become permanent. Mine is.
While people know about concerts, there are other venues and activities that can be damaging to your hearing that are not obvious. Restaurants are getting louder every day, as are sporting events and even children’s parties. Check out my list so you can protect yourself and your family from noise-induced hearing loss.
1. Restaurants/Bars: Booming music and loud conversation is the typical background at many restaurants and bars. Research shows that the louder the music, the faster people eat and drink, generating more revenue, but risking their clients’ hearing in the process. And those poor employees!
2. Sporting Events: In recent years, numerous football stadiums have tried to break the record for noisiest crowd. While this may be good for team spirit, it can be extremely damaging to the sports fans and their hearing. I worry most about the children in the crowd who have no control over the situation.
3. Movies: The new Star Wars movie boasted that it was the loudest movie on record. When I watched, I wore my noise-cancelling headphones with the noise-cancelling feature activated and didn’t miss any of the dialogue! I saw many in the audience holding their hands over their ears during certain scenes.
4. Children’s Parties/School Events: A few years ago, I clocked the talent show at my children’s elementary school at 90 decibels, an unsafe level. At 105 decibels, the maximum level of an iPod, some hearing damage can occur within 15 minutes.
5. Weddings: Events like weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteens can be heartwarming and fun, but also incredibly loud. Most bands and DJs set the volume at unsafe levels, which combined with the din of conversation can be deafening.
The good news is that noise induced hearing loss is 100% preventable! You can protect yourself from unexpected noise by being aware of the risks, and arriving prepared. Here are my tips for protecting your hearing when out and about.
1. Turn down the volume. If you have control of the volume, turn it down to a safe level, or set the volume at different levels in different parts of the venue.
2. Speak up. If you think the environment is too loud, say something. Ask for the volume to be lowered or to move to a quieter seat. If you ask nicely but persistently, sometimes things can be arranged.
3. Move away from the sound. If you have a choice of seats, sit far away from the speakers. With distance comes safety.
4. Travel with earplugs. Carry earplugs with you in your backpack or purse. Be sure to bring extras to share with friends and family. Acoustic earplugs will provide the best sound for music, but cheaper pairs from the drugstore will also do the trick when used properly.
5. Use a decibel reader app. I like Decibel 10th, but there are many good options. Most are not 100% accurate, but they will let you know if you are near or in the danger zone.
6. Vote with your feet. If a place is consistently too loud and will not adjust the volume level, don’t go there anymore. If enough people do this, change will eventually occur.
Readers, do you worry about noise exposure when you are out and about?
This post first appeared on thirdAge.