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Protecting your ears at festivals

Contributed by Dave Cutten

19/06/2019 • 3 min read

Tags • Hearing loss

Have you ever experienced buzzing or ringing in your ears after going to a festival or concert? 

This could be a sign of hearing damage. Unfortunately, it could be too late by the time you notice it since the damage is irreversible.

You can care for your hearing by wearing ear plugs, but how can you prevent hearing damage at a festival or concert, without having to compromise your listening experience? And what are the risks of listening to loud music? Read on to find out.

 

How does hearing damage happen?

Inside your inner ear is you cochlea, within which are small hair cells. As we get older, these begin to deteriorate. This age-related hearing loss is why many elderly people – 70% of over 70s – suffer from some degree of hearing loss.

Noise can also cause damage. This can happen instantly after an extremely loud noise or by overloading your ears by being exposed to sounds over 80 decibels (dB) for too long or too often. This is called noise-induced hearing loss.

Inner ear hair cells do not recover from this damage by themselves, which is why this kind of hearing loss is irreversible.

 

How loud are music festivals?

Festival volume is generally 90–100 dB outside. Inside a festival tent or concert hall, this could be between 95–110 decibels, or higher. But how damaging are these decibel levels? You risk suffering hearing damage if you stay in an environment of 80 dB for eight hours. 

Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, so the sound intensity doubles every three decibels. This means that with every three-decibel increase, the amount of time you can stay in that environment is halved. 

So at a 100-dB concert, you risk suffering hearing damage in under five minutes!

 

Why do your ears ring after a concert?

Damaged inner ear hair cells will no longer send sound information through to the brain. But they can also send the wrong information, like buzzing or ringing sounds, known as tinnitus.

How do you prevent permanent hearing damage at a festival?

Don’t stand too close to the speakers and make sure you take regular breaks away from the music to give you ears a chance to recover. Wearing ear plugs is an effective way to help protect your hearing.

Can you enjoy the music if you’re wearing ear plugs?

Ear plugs have a noise-reduction rating (NRR), which tells you how many decibels they reduce noise by. For example, NRR 22 dB ear plugs will reduce the volume by 22 dB, so at 100 dB concert, these will make it sound like it’s 78 dB, which is a much safer level, but will be loud enough to enjoy.

Should I wear ear plugs if I only occasionally go to festivals and concerts?

Listening to excessively loud music just once can permanently damage your hearing. 

If you think have hearing loss from any cause, you can book a free hearing test today.