If you’ve ever been at a concert and found yourself thinking “This music is simply too loud,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve gotten too old for this type of entertainment. It could imply that your body is trying to tell you something – that you are in a place that could impair your ability to hear. If after the show you’ve been left with a ringing in your ears (tinnitus), or you are not able to hear as well for a couple of days, you’ve probably experienced noise-induced hearing loss, abbreviated NIHL.

This may happen even with brief exposures to loud noises, and arises because high decibel sounds can result in structural damage to the small hair cells which detect auditory signals in the inner ear and transmit the signals to the brain, where they’re translated into sounds. Typically, the NIHL resulting from one single exposure to very loud music or noise is temporary, and should go away within a couple of days. But repeated exposure to loud noise can cause the damage to become permanent and result in ringing in the ears that doesn’t go away or even in a significant loss of hearing.

The amount of damage very loud music does to one’s hearing is dependant upon 2 things – precisely how loud the noise is, and exactly how long you are in contact with it. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that can be difficult to comprehend because it’s logarithmic, meaning that each increase of 10 on the scale means that the noise is twice as loud. So the sound of noisy city traffic (85 decibels) is not just a little bit louder than the sound of ordinary speech (65 decibels), it’s four times as loud. A rock and roll concert, at which the sound level is commonly in the vicinity of 115 decibels, is ten times louder than ordinary speech. In addition to how loud the noise is, the other factor that impacts how much damage is done is the length of time you are in contact with it, the permissible exposure time. Hearing loss may occur from being exposed to sound at 85 decibels after only eight hours. In contrast, the permissible exposure time that you can be exposed to noise at 115 decibels without risking hearing loss is less than 1 minute. Therefore rock and roll concerts are potentially dangerous, because the noise levels at some of them have been measured at greater than 140 decibels.

Projections from hearing instrument specialists claim that by the year 2050 up to 50 million people will have suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to very loud music. Considering this, several live concert promoters and concert venues have started supplying sound-baffling ear plugs to attendees for a nominal charge. One supplier of these earplugs even entered into a collaboration with a British rock band to offer its ear plugs to audiences for free. Some concert attendees have reported seeing signs inside various venues that say, “Earplugs are sexy.” Earplugs may, in fact, not be particularly sexy, but they could possibly save your valuable hearing.

Any of our hearing specialists here is pleased to provide you with information about earplugs. If a noisy rock concert is in your near future, we highly recommend that you think about wearing a good pair.