May 02, 2019
Most everyone has seen little kids running around concerts with oversized, noise-canceling headphones on their heads, a tool parents use to protect their kids’ sensitive little ears. You’ll even run into some older adults rocking these headphones or earplugs, the smaller alternative, to protect their hearing.
That said, the vast majority of folks of concert-going age — which is quite the age range — traipse, dance and sing along to concerts without any sort of ear protection. And guess what? This, almost undoubtedly, will result in hearing loss of some kind.
According to Everyday Hearing, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) – damage to infrastructure of the inner ear that respond to sound – is the most common form of hearing loss, affecting at least 26 million Americans. The website explains further:
Normal levels of conversation are around 65 decibels loud. Concert music levels can reach between 100 and 120 decibels loud. At a level of 110 decibels, hearing loss can occur after only two minutes of exposure.
Blasting music at concerts may be the obvious source of hearing damage, but other loud bursts of sound can damage the inner ear bones or rupture the eardrum, according to the National Institutes of Health. Gunshots or explosions, for example. It's also worth noting that many fitness classes now feature nightclub-like environments, blaring music and all, so NIHL could occur in these settings, too.
Plus, NIHL isn’t the only result of exposure to loud noises over time. It can also cause tinnitus, which is signified by ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears or head, the National Institutes of Health explained. This is a condition that may subside over time, but could last the entirety of one’s life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main methods of preventing NIHL include: avoid/limit exposure to very loud sounds, turn down the volume of speakers, move away from loud sources of sound and, last but not least, use hearing protection when you can’t avoid exposure — like at a concert — to reduce sound to a safer level.
So, yeah, using ear protection seems to be the most realistic method for preventing hearing loss because, well, you can’t expect dedicated music lovers to simply stop going to concerts. That said, not all protection is made equally. Those drugstore ear plugs probably aren’t the best solution in the long-term.
There are plenty of other, higher-quality options out there, however. NPR compiled a list of the four best earplugs specifically made for music, while Shooting and Safety has a list of the best ear protection for shooting.