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.
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13 thoughts on “5 Places You Frequent That Could Be Damaging Your Hearing”
Good morning Shari. Yes. I am always on guard for noisy places. I ride the volume button on my HA and CI all the time, but more effectively, I simply avoid noisy places. Sadly I confess to having been a noise junky in my earlier years, listening to Pink Floyd, Kansas and others at max volume to (of course) hear the nuance of the music and actually to feel it. I have some genetic forces supporting my hearing loss but I am the one who contributed the larger part that could have been, as you say, prevented. It’s ironic that now as a practically deaf person I practice those safe listening protocols that might have saved much of my hearing if employed earlier. I grew up in an age when the relationship between loud noise and hearing loss was simply not acknowledged, or even known by most people.
Good point Jerry. Unfortunately, I think that many people still don’t know about the dangers of loud noise. We need to do our best to educate them.
Has anyone mentioned the very loud sound track accompanying bicycle “spinning” classes at the gym? I wish I’d started earlier wearing ear plugs covered by my “ear muffs” to block the din. My hearing is shot. I’m one of the very few older persons in the class. I hate to think where the younger ones will be at when they’re my age.
Yes, this is a big problem. I stick to the quieter yoga style classes myself, partially due to this issue. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
My family went to see the most recent Star Trek movie. I had my specially made your plug earplug that normally reduces the dean of a restaurant to an acceptable volume and still allows me to have a conversation with my fellow diners. I also had my noise canceling earphones. I had both of them on throughout the movie and still cringed and pressed my earphones as tightly as possible to my ears. I nearly walked out, especially towards beginning of the movie. After the movie, I asked to speak with a manager. He said that they have been having trouble with that particular theater, and that he would have the individual who controls the decibels come back and recalculate it. He also stated that they have a maximum decibel level for their movies. I have my doubts on both statements. He was polite, and seemed accommodating, but there is no way to know whether he followed through on what he said. I emphasized that if I was overwhelmed even with hearing protection that I had with me, could he imagine what damage was being done to the hearing of people that had no such protection. I was horrified. I tend to avoid most movies just because of this problem.
That sounds awful. Thanks for sharing your experience. It is so important to speak up when things are too loud. Thank you for doing that.
The last wedding I went to had a D.J. and the volume of the music was outrageous. Fortunately, I came prepared. My Audiologist sold me a pair of ear plugs that protect your hearing and let you hear as well. Even with those ear plugs I was still very uncomfortable and spent a good part of the evening sitting out in the hall. I would have left but I was riding with someone else. At one wedding I was at, the D.J. was asked to turn down the volume two times and he did for 10 minutes each time, and then he pumped it back up again. It astounds me that the bride or groom or some member of the family would put up with that volume. I was invited to a wedding last month and did not attend because I can’t stand the volume even with ear plugs. People need to realize what damage they are doing to their ears.
I agree! Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I have a smartphone and have a decibel meter on it. I avoid loud places, but when I go (say to a restaurant with family) I routinely ask to speak to the manager, show them the very high readings (well into the danger zone for hearing loss) and request the sound be reduced until it is no longer dangerous to hearing.
I left my daughter’s wedding reception early because the sound was so extreme. I only have partial hearing in one ear and am not willing to destroy what is left. The minister also left early (she was also a family friend) and both of us experienced tinnitus after that experience. I no longer go to movie theaters – I watch everything at home.
One thing not mentioned is bicycle riding. The wind produced can be so loud as to damage hearing. I’m sure motorcycle (bike) riding is even worse. Almost no one realizes the problems with wind noise and cycling.
I’ve never been a noise junkie. Loud noises give me tinnitus for days.
I love using my decibel reader also. Thanks for sharing your tips.