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Can concerts damage your hearing?

Can concerts damage your hearing?

It’s summer here in Australia, and there are plenty of live concerts and festivals to enjoy. While it may be an exhilarating experience, it can cause long term damage. Loud music for long periods of time can have lasting effects. In this article, we’ll discuss hearing loss from concerts and how to prevent it.

What is hearing loss? 

Hearing loss is simply described as the complete or almost-complete loss of hearing. There are different levels of hearing loss, including mild, moderate, severe and profound. Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. It can also be a condition present at birth, or developed overtime due to a health condition, ageing or exposure to loud noises. Roughly 1 in 6 Australians suffer from hearing loss. 

How loud are concerts? 

To properly understand how loud concerts can be, you’ll need to learn about decibels and safe hearing levels. The decibel (dB) is a unit used to measure sound level, and is commonly used for signals, electronics and communication. Your ear can listen to roughly 80 dB for 8 hours a day without any harm. Numbers above 80 dB can cause hearing damage, depending on how long you were exposed for and whether you used hearing protection.

Higher numbers such as 140 dB (which is a rough equivalent to a gunshot) can instantly cause hearing loss, while 105 dB (as loud as a power tool) can cause hearing loss after 7 minutes of exposure.

A concert is usually anywhere between 95 dB to 120 dB (with a KISS concert once peaking at 136 dB) which makes it hard to say exactly how loud concerts typically are. You could listen to a quieter concert for close to an hour without repercussions, while a louder concert could cause damage within minutes. On average, concerts are around 105 dB which can cause hearing loss in 30 minutes.

Can concerts cause permanent damage to your hearing? 

Without the right protection, concerts can cause temporary and even permanent damage to your hearing. This is known as Music-Induced Hearing Loss (MIHL). Anywhere with loud music, including clubs and festivals can cause similar results. Loud music can cause 5 different types of hearing disorders:

  1. Hearing loss (inability to hear sounds)
  2. Distortion of sound (some consonants blurring together)
  3. Tinnitus (constant recurring ringing or buzzing sounds)
  4. Hyperacusis (lowered sound tolerance)
  5. Diplacusis (distortion of pitch)

What can you do to protect your hearing at concerts? 

We have three recommendations to protect your hearing at concerts or other live music events.

  1. Wear earplugs: Hearing protection such as earplugs can almost eliminate the risk of hearing loss without ruining the fun. We recommend investing in high quality earplugs rather than common foam earplugs to ensure you can still clearly hear the music and just lower the potential danger. Custom-fitted earplugs are best, such as the ACS Pro 17’s which are specifically designed for concerts. Alternatively, if you don’t go to concerts often or are on a budget, we recommend the universal fit Pacato 16's
  2. Sit farther away from the speakers: The further you are from the speakers, the quieter they’ll be and the less chance of damage caused. For most people this will severely hinder their experience at the event, so we’d probably recommend one of the other solutions.
  3. Take breaks from the noise: If you aren’t using hearing protection, then giving your ears regular breaks can make a huge difference. We recommend a break at least every 30 minutes, depending on how loud the concert is.

Do I need earplugs for concerts?

While you don’t need earplugs for concerts, we do highly recommend it to prevent permanent hearing loss. If you buy earplugs that are specifically designed for concerts, they will still let you hear the music clearly while keeping your hearing safe from damaging exposure to excessive noise. 

Concerts can be a great time, but don’t cause permanent hearing damage for one night of fun! Keep your ears safe and enjoy loud music responsibly. If you’re unsure about anything or want some general advice, feel free to call our team of audiologists or send us an email.