May 08

No Shame in Earplugs!


Wearing earplugs at a rock concert seems counterintuitive, right? The whole point of going is to scream/sing as loud as humanly possible and experience your favorite band (like Bon Jovi for instance) in a different way than merely playing the CD. Although, looking back at those concerts after being introduced to hearing science, I realize that the ringing ears and overall muffled world I experienced when the concerts ended could and should be avoided. I’m not going to stop going to concerts– and you shouldn’t either– so I will absolutely be wearing those earplugs next time around! After all, the musicians themselves wear noise reducing devices when they play—one of the reasons they don’t realize it if their mic unexpectedly cuts out. Could you imagine the level of hearing loss they would experience if they didn’t do this?

It only takes 1 concert or major sporting event to cause temporary hearing loss or temporary tinnitus (ringing of the ears). Two factors that have to do with levels of hearing loss are the intensity of the sound and the duration of the sound. Exposure to levels above approximately 85 dB (decibels) may cause hearing loss. But remember length of exposure also must be taken into consideration.

To give you some perspective on what different dB levels sound like, here is a link to the CDC website. This page is interactive, so play around with it! The bar at the top allows you to match up the intensity of a sound measured in dB with the length of exposure it would take for hearing loss to occur.  For example, a chain saw reaches levels of 110 dB. You only need to be exposed to this noise for less than 2 minutes for it to cause hearing loss.  The maximal tolerable noise levels for humans are about 120-140 dB.  Above these levels you would experience tickling in your ears—but the painful kind, not the fun kind.  Sound becomes uncomfortable to listen to for a length of time at about 95-100 dB.

Earplugs are a must in loud situations if you want to protect your hearing!

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