Mind The Sound

Just one concert or night out exposing you to very loud music can cause serious damage, such as hearing loss or tinnitus.

At a night out with your friends, bringing earplugs may not be the first thing on your mind, but many clubs, pubs and concert venues play music at damaging levels.

Dr Peter Wheeler, a trustee of the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), specialized in acoustics and audio signal processing for his doctorate.

He said: “Even going to the cinema could be damaging with today’s sound levels.”

Dangerous sound levels

Noise is measured in decibels. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a human ear can be exposed to 85dB for eight hours, 91dB for two hours and 100dB for 15 minutes. Being exposed longer than this can cause damage. Levels over 112dB can harm you in seconds.

A study by the University of Salford found that many bars play music at a noise level of 95dB. They even measured sound levels up to 115dB on dance floors at nightclubs.

Peter Wheeler, BTA trustee
“A permanent threshold shift or permanent damage to your hearing never improves, and that leaves you with difficulty communicating and with all sorts of problems in later life. The onset of tinnitus can happen at the same time.”

A second measurement done by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK found that concert venues plays music at levels from 80dB to as high as 146dB. Being exposed to music that loud can cause permanent harm.

The risk of damage to your hearing depends on how long you are exposed to a specific noise level.

Peter Wheeler explains that there are two different types of damage you can get when exposed to loud noise.

The sensation you have when you leave an event, with your ears feeling dull,  experiencing a ringing even the next day, is called a temporary threshold shift (TTS). Normally this goes away within days and your hearing recovers.

The second and permanent damage can come after even a single extreme exposure of noise, or if you keep exposing your ears to loud noise. This is called a permanent threshold shift (PTS).

Protecting yourself

Tinnitus links
Living with Tinnitus
Mind the sound
British Tinnitus Association
Sound level chart

Wearing earplugs is a good way to protect yourself.

“I would recommend everyone to carry a set of earplugs. The ones you buy in the high streets will provide about 15-20dB protection. That’s enough for most places like nightclubs, gigs and the cinema. It gives you protection, and at the same time allows you to talk to someone,” said Wheeler.

Taking breaks from the loud noise during a night out can also save you from damage.


Students don’t mind

Look out for our coverage of this year’s music festivals in the latest issue of Arts London News.