If you’re into your music in a serious way and are unaware of the risks of noise-induced hearing loss, then seeing your favourite band or DJ may already be putting your ears at risk. As a general rule, listening to sounds over 85dB, can damage your hearing. So what does 85dB sound like? Well, the experts say it’s the same as the sound of nearby traffic from the footpath. But if you have difficulty talking to a friend less than two metres away from you at a music venue, then it’s way too loud and action needs to be taken to protect your ears.
To help you work out the best ways to manage the hearing loss risks that come from listening to music, we’ve put together 12 quick tips. Tips we believe will help you continue to enjoy music for many years to come.
Tip 1: Take regular breaks
At noisy music venues, remember to take regular breaks every hour or to give your ears some peace and quiet. The louder the venue, the more breaks you need to take. To put this into perspective, if you are exposed to sounds around 100dB, which is about as noisy as a chainsaw that is only a few metres away, it only takes 15 minutes or so before the sound starts to irreversibly damage your hearing.
Tip 2: Get into wearing ear plugs
A viable alternative to taking regular breaks is to wear earplugs. The hardest thing about wearing ear plugs is to know when to put them on. When it’s too loud to have a conversation with a friend who is less than a metre away – it’s time. There are different kinds of ear plugs with the more expensive, high-fidelity earplugs that filter out the intensity of certain frequencies allowing you to continue to have conversations.
Tip 3: Stay away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers.
Staying away from where the action is may sound like a tip from the wowsers but in reality is actually ‘ground zero’ when it comes to hearing damage. Fortunately, the risk of listening to damaging noise dramatically reduces the more you move away from the speakers.
Tip 4: Turn down your mp3 player headphones so you can hear background noises
Having the volume up on personal music players for extended periods of time has been identified as a major cause of hearing loss in young people. To reduce this risk, simply keep the volume down to an acceptable level. Having the level down so that you can hear the noise in your surroundings is a good rule of thumb. It’s good for your general safety and it might even save your life by allowing you to hear that speeding car.
Tip 5: Put away those earbuds
Earbuds became popular about the same time the first generation of ipods arrived more than ten years ago. Their popularity has now declined with the larger more traditional headphones making a comeback in recent years. This new trend is actually good news for your ears as headphones deliver better quality sound to your ears at a lower volume.
Tip 6: No need to have the car stereo blasting
Listening to loud music in your car can be a really damaging experience for your ears, as it’s such a small, reverberant and enclosed space. Having the volume turned down a few notches can do a world of good to your ears while improving the sound quality.
Tip 7: Check your family history for hearing loss
Find out if your family has a hearing loss. If it does, take extra precautions to protect your hearing when going out to loud music venues such as nightclubs and concerts.
Tip 8: Get some help if you have trouble hearing
If you have a pain in your ear or have a ringing in your ears that will not go way, go and see your GP. If there is a problem, they will refer you to either an audiologist or an ears, nose and throat specialist.
Tip 9: Taking anti-oxidants, vitamins and even the occasional glass of wine can help prevent hearing loss
Researchers have shown that taking antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and other compounds found in a common glass of red wine can help prevent the onset of hearing loss. The antioxidants work by soaking up the free radicals that can destroy healthy hearing cells in the inner ear.
For Music Promoters
Tip 10: Have venue speakers off the ground
If you are a promoter and want to help punters look after their hearing think about raise the venue’s speakers off the ground. Taking the speakers off the floor reduces the intensity of the lower-end frequencies in the room while making the music a lot more listenable for the audience.
Tip 11: Set up a Chill Out Room
Having a Chill Out room can help people recover from listening to a bout of loud music time by providing a space to rest their ears. Chill Out rooms were all the rage back in the rave scene of the early nineties but they disappeared by the end of the decade. Besides protecting the hearing of your patrons, Chill Out rooms can be fun places to set up visually creative set designs and for DJs to play more downbeat, reflective and abstract styles of music.
Tip 12: Keep the music levels out of the red
Making sure the music playing played is not distorted, clipped or compressed goes a long way in reducing the harm it may cause to the listener. Venues or promoters can do this by installing limiters or having DJ mixers sub-mixed into the house PA. DJs and bands should also make sure they do not constantly ride the audio levels in the red. Having music that flickers around 0 VU (Volume Units) on the mixer will have more variation (dynamic range) and allow listeners to hear a greater spread of frequencies in the music.
Hearing protection is particularly important as predicting an individual’s susceptibility to noise damage is impossible to predict these days. These are easy hearing protection tips to prevent hearing loss. Remember that loud music can damage your hearing permanently – protect it!