In a statement released by the World Health Organization today via BBC, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of permanently damaging their hearing by listening to “too much, too loudly”.
This is especially relevant to the dance music industry, wherein boasts about the wattage of your favorite club’s sound system is somewhat commonplace. Excision is touring with “150,000 watts of bass,” for instance, while the club Avalon in Los Angeles has just installed the “world’s largest subwoofer club installation ever.”
Human bodies continue to grow and develop until the ages of 19~23 and exposing yourself to large levels of sounds and high decibel levels could potentially damage your hearing later on in life.
WHO figures show 43 million people aged 12-35 have hearing loss and the prevalence is increasing.
In that age group, the WHO said, half of people in rich and middle-income countries were exposed to unsafe sound levels from personal audio devices.
Meanwhile 40% were exposed to damaging levels of sound from clubs and bars.
The proportion of US teenagers with hearing loss went from 3.5% in 1994 to 5.3% in 2006.
The main argument of “too much, too loudly” rings true in the ears of so many club goers. When you really think about it… it’s really very odd that people brag about how long their ears were ringing. A ringing in the ears is caused by the death of tiny cilia that transmit sounds to the brain.
If you damage these stereocilia from loud noise exposure, then there is no adequate sensory input going to the brain. So, your brain makes up for the lack of sensory input by creating its own activity, and that is why you “hear” buzzing or ringing. As of today, inner-ear cilia cannot be regenerated in humans. Once they’re damaged, it’s for life.
So when you brag about your ears ringing, it’s akin to bragging after too much drinking, “Bruh! My liver got so damaged last night!” It’s weird, right? It can’t be just me.
Major festivals have already taken steps to help their attendees – Electric Daisy Carnival already offers earplugs in their welcome packages, and now Coachella will begin doing the same.
At high decibel levels, such as those found in festivals or clubs, the damage accumulates much more quickly than at-home listening. The full report argued: “While it is important to keep the volume down, limiting the use of personal audio devices to less than one hour a day would do much to reduce noise exposure.” Obviously people are not going to cut down their listening time to an hour a day – for my job alone, I’m listening to music anywhere from 4~6 hours a day; add another 4 hours to that if I’m going to a show that night. There’s still a lot that you can do, though.
Use noise cancelling headphones to reduce the volume needed to drown out the ambient noise around you. Wear earplugs to shows. Reduce the volume of your listening in general.
For an idea of how loud something is versus how fast it can damage the ear, see below.
The WHO’s safe listening times are:
- 85 dB – the level of noise inside a car – eight hours
- 90 dB – lawn mower – two hours 30 minutes
- 95 dB – an average motorcycle – 47 minutes
- 100 dB – car horn or underground train – 15 minutes
- 105 dB – mp3 player at maximum volume – four minutes
- 115 dB – loud rock concert – 28 seconds
- 120 dB – vuvuzela or sirens – nine seconds
Paul Breckell, the chief executive of the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: “I urge music lovers to consider the long term risks of listening to loud music from their personal music players over the 85dB safe level, as over exposure can trigger tinnitus, and remember that a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can make all the difference.”