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Hearing protection at concerts – what you need to know

Updated: Jan 17

Concerts and music festivals are fantastic. But did you know that although loud music can make you feel good, too much exposure can lead to long term hearing loss and tinnitus? People with noise-induced hearing loss need hearing aids earlier than the general population and are far more likely to experience tinnitus (noises in the head or ears).


However, only 30% of people exposed to loud noise wear hearing protection – which means a staggering 70% do not.


Hearing is a precious sense that often goes unnoticed until it begins to fade. Avoidable hearing loss is a rapidly growing global problem, and the "Make Listening Safe Campaign UK" is taking the lead in addressing this issue. Launched on November 1, 2023, the campaign is set to roll out worldwide to other members of the World Health Organization in 2024. Their slogan is "Love Sound, Listen with Care."

 

To learn more about the Make Listening Safe Campaign UK and join the cause, visit: https://www.makelisteningsafecampaign.com


The campaign highlights that people who play video games for prolonged periods of time with the volume of speakers or headphones turned up high are at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus a result of exposure to potentially hazardous levels of sound. You can find out more about this in a BBC article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-68004968.


You can read the full article here https://bmjpublichealth.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000253


In October 2023 a separate campaign, "Listen for Life", led by the UK's Night Time Industries Association was officially launched at the House of Commons. The aim of the campaign is to reduce hearing loss by 50% across UK music venues, thereby tackling both hearing loss and associated tinnitus. You can find out more here https://ntia.co.uk/ntia-launches-listen-for-life-campaign-at-the-house-of-commons-in-partnership-with-specsavers-to-encourage-hearing-health-testing-and-tinnitus-prevention/


To find out more about these, and ways of preserving your hearing please see my blog https://manage.wix.com/dashboard/4ac37ab7-893d-4d67-870e-5d192025849c/blog/29eace17-a35c-4835-9eab-df86f76a6de4/edit


Musicians are several steps ahead of their audiences – you will see most of them wearing in the ear hearing protection and monitor earphones. There are also strict guidelines regarding how much noise they can safely be exposed too. Their hearing is their livelihood.


The audience – well – that’s left to them. The louder the music, and the longer you are listening to it without hearing protection, the higher the risk of causing permanent damage to your hearing.


As a general rule of thumb, if you have to shout to make yourself heard, you should be protecting your ears! Safe listening times are shown at the bottom of this post.


Luckily there are several steps that you can take to reduce the risk.


Hearing Protection

This allows you to hear the music clearly and comfortably, without the distortion that comes when the volume is too high. Try them and see – you’ll be amazed.


The best types are custom made earplugs with acoustic filters – these provide the best attenuation with excellent sound quality. The filters are interchangeable, and you can choose the strength that suits you best.



There are also several types of non-custom hearing protection that have interchangeable filters, for example the Phonak Serenity earplugs shown below.



If you don’t have time to get these from Mills & McKinney then the over the over-the-counter foam variety still help and are definitely better than nothing.



Avoid getting too close to the speakers

The further away from the speaker, the quieter the sound will be. Ever felt that vibration in your chest from loud music? That means that the sound waves are so strong that they are vibrating the air in your lungs!


Taking Regular Breaks

For every hour you spend listening to loud music, try to have at least a 15-minute break in a quieter area. This will give your ears a much-needed break, and whilst it doesn’t protect them from damage like hearing protection does, it is much better for your ears than listening to loud music without a break.


Enjoy your music safely.


Safe Listening Times

The risk of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) depends on noise exposure time, the average noise level and the peak level of very loud sounds. Some people are more susceptible to hearing loss than others, so that protection based on an average time and sound level exposure will only protect the ‘average’ person.


Noise regulations exist to establish the amount of time that people can be exposed before they are at risk of permanent hearing loss. Within the UK, the law states that an individual can be exposed to a sound pressure level of 85dB(A) for a maximum of 8 hours. As the sound gets louder, the safe exposure time decreases rapidly. This is shown on the chart below.







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