Fall is here, but if you reside in Canada, it’s feeling a lot more like winter! Along with artists continuing their tour sessions, sports are back! The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors are in season! The Oshawa Generals, a team we are so excited to support, also opened their season at the Tribute Communities Centre on Sept 29. While the return of basketball and hockey, and attending concerts are fun activities, it is important to be mindful of hearing health as these environments can expose people attending to unsafe noise levels.
At concerts, people in attendance are likely to experience noise levels for too long. This can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, meaning hearing permanent, irreversible hearing loss. Rock concerts are often used as an example in a noise chart for ‘very loud sounds’ coming in at 115 decibels (dB) or more!
In Ontario, the limit of safe noise exposure for an 8-hour duration is 85 dBA. For every increase of 3 dBA to the noise level, the safe listening time decreases by half. Following this exchange rate, at a dB level of 97 dBA, your safe listening time before damage occurs is only 30 minutes. If we use this tool for the 115 dB example of the rock concert, the safe listening time at the concert before permanent damage takes place would be less than thirty seconds!
What does noise damage look like? After one concert, a person can experience tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, which indicates their ears were exposed to too much sound. Eventually over time, noise at concerts can cause this ringing in the ears to become more frequent, and also show up in later years as noise induced hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. The factors of NIHL include the level (how loud), duration (how long), and frequency (how often) of exposure.
Arenas are also notorious for becoming extremely loud! For example, during the 2015 NBA finals, the arena for the Golden State Warriors was estimated to be around 100-120 dB! This loudness level was likely attained several times during the game, putting people in attendance at risk for damage to hair cells and permanent hearing loss.
When attending your favourite concert or sporting event, remember the following hearing tips.
1) Always pack earplugs! Bring an extra pair for a friend or family member. If you forget yours, keep an eye out, some concerts and arenas now sell earplugs to protect you from noise!
2) Stand away from the speakers! Choose your listening spot wisely, make sure you aren’t near any speakers as this will increase your noise exposure and almost guarantee permanent hearing damage without hearing protection.
3) Take listening breaks! Step away from the noise to give your ears a break if listening for a long period of time.
4) Children are often in attendance at sporting events, so be sure to apply these tips for everyone in the family!
If you have any concerns about noise at concerts or sporting events you have attended and how they have impacted your hearing, it is important to get a hearing test. Even more important, is if you plan on attending more loud events in the future, invest in hearing protection! This can be as simple as purchasing a foam earplug from the drug store, as long as it is inserted properly and the correct size for your ear. Alternatively, you can have custom noise plugs made for a perfect fit every time. In particular, musician’s plugs have a sophisticated filter in them that maintains the quality of the music you are listening to, but lowers it to a safe listening level. Not sure what the right solution is for you? Give us a call at The Hearing Room and our audiologists will be happy to help you.