Loud music at clubs, gigs and festivals, and through personal music players, can cause damage to your hearing. This could mean permanent tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or premature hearing loss. 90% have experienced some ringing in their ears after listening to loud music, a warning sign that they may be damaging their hearing.
The risk of damage is determined by how loud the music is, how long you are exposed to it and individual susceptibility to noise. But don't worry, you can take steps now to protect your hearing for the future.
How loud is too loud?
Loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). Experts agree that exposure to noise at or above 85 dB(A) can damage hearing.
Some examples of average decibel levels of common noises:
- 20 dB (A) A quiet room at night
- 60 dB (A) Ordinary spoken conversation
- 70 dB (A) City street
- 80 dB (A) DANGER LEVEL
- 100 dB (A) Pneumatic drill
- 100 dB (A) Maximum volume on some mp3 players
- 110 dB (A) Night club
- 115 dB (A) Rock concert
- 120 dB (A) Aeroplane taking off
Without sound measuring equipment, it can be difficult to know how loud the sound really is. As a rule of thumb, if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone two metres away, the noise is loud enough to damage your hearing and you should take steps to protect yourself. If the sound ever hurts your ears, leave immediately.
How long can I listen to music for?
It depends on how loud the music is. Decibels work as ratios so the louder the volume, the less time you can listen to it without damaging your hearing. For every 3dB(A) increase in volume, the amount of time is halved before hearing damage occurs.
If a nightclub has music playing at 100dB(A), it is only possible to listen to it for 10-15 minutes before the exposure becomes damaging.
Won't my ears get use to loud music?
In short, no. Loud music affects everyone's hearing. Some people may be more susceptible to damage than others but it is only possible to know your susceptibility once you have damaged your hearing. So it is important to take steps to prevent any damage from occurring.
What might happen if I damage my hearing?
If you have been exposed to loud music, you may experience ringing in your ears. This is usually temporary and tends to go after 24 hours at most.
However, continued exposure to loud music can lead to the ringing, or tinnitus, to become permanent. This has been known to affect people's lives, their ability to sleep and concentrate.
You may also experience premature hearing loss. While you may not notice this straight away, it could bring on hearing loss as a result of age much quicker.
If you are worried that you may have damaged your hearing, or have tinnitus or hearing loss, speak to our Information Line.