Do you know listening to loud music can permanently damage your hearing? Both children and adults engage in various recreational activities, such as attending live music concerts, where they are constantly exposed to higher sounds levels. Today’s article will look at whether earplugs worn at concerts make a difference to your hearing health!
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has considered noise exposure to be one of the most frequent irreversible illnesses among today’s young people. Hearing loss which occurs due to loud sound exposure is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Hearing plays an essential role in communication, speech and language development in young children. Even a minimal amount of hearing loss can have profound impacts on not only children but also adults. Sadly, hearing loss caused by recreational noise exposure remains a major public health concern in Australia and around the world.
According to the WHO, an estimated 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at an increased risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Research has shown that the prevalence of hearing loss among adolescents has significantly increased in the last thirty years.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB), which is displayed on a logarithmic scale. Normal conversations reach dB levels around 60-65dB, while sound as low as 85dB can inflict damage on our ears. During most concerts, you’d be exposed to 100-120dB, and as you can imagine, this can irreversibly damage your hearing.
Standing next to loudspeakers can result in irreversible, noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears. Unlike workplace noise exposure, there are no regulations that limit the noise you’re exposed to at concerts and music festivals. It’s up to you to protect your hearing and take preventative measures.
Luckily, there are many ways in which you can make better listening choices! These can include being aware of safe listening levels, getting a regular hearing test and wearing custom-made earplugs at concerts to protect ears against damage.
Excessive noise can damage the eardrum and delicate outer hair cells located in the cochlear, the hearing organ. These hair cells are an integral part of our hearing as they convert sound waves into electrical signals.
A secondary effect of exposure to loud sounds is the damage to the arteries supplying blood to the cochlear, further damaging the auditory system. Once damaged, the cochlear hair cells cannot be regenerated, leading to loss of speech clarity and hearing in the presence of background noise.
In addition to hearing loss, other symptoms of unsafe exposure to loud concert music include constant tinnitus or ringing in the ears that can persist for hours and days. For some individuals this constant ringing sound is extremely distracting and prevents them from concentration on everyday tasks, leading to mental and physical fatigue.
Another common symptom of exposure to loud concert music is fullness in the ear, resulting in muffled sounds and thus reduced hearing capacity in individuals.
Wearing earplugs at concerts can protect your hearing from damage. Earplugs stop excessive sound from reaching your hearing organ, protecting those precious hair cells in the cochlear from damage. While earplugs are a great form of protection, not all earplugs are ideal for concerts.
There are different types of earplugs, e.g earplugs for sleeping, swimming earplugs, earplugs that cancel noise, and musician plugs. There are also earplugs specifically designed to protect your ears from excessive music at concerts.
These earplugs simply lower the sound to a safe level, without compromising the quality of the music, unlike traditional over the counter earplugs, which are only effective in blocking high pitches of sounds.
Traditional earplugs are made from foam or gel and are designed to simply block out noise, therefore they produce poor sound quality. The custom-made earplugs are built to the shape of your ears, are comfortable, durable and discrete. Best of all, you can re-use them again and again, also saving our environment.
Custom-made earplugs are highly effective and billions of dollars have been invested in research to study whether earplugs worn at concerts make any difference. A recent study was carried out with outdoor music festival-goers in Amsterdam. The researchers found that those who did not wear earplugs during the event not only experienced decreased hearing levels but higher rates of tinnitus than those who went to the concert with earplugs.
The bottom line is that noise-induced hearing loss from music concerts can be prevented with the consistent use of earplugs. Earplugs are effective in preventing hearing loss when they are used correctly and consistently by the wearer. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can impact people of all ages too – not just the older demographic.
If you’re experiencing early signs of hearing loss such as constant ringing sounds in the ears and trouble hearing other people around you, the first step is to see a qualified audiologist for a comprehensive hearing test. If you are a regular concert-goer, it’s also a good idea to ask your audiologist regarding earplug recommendations to future-proof your hearing.