If you’ve ever attended a modern day rock concert and found yourself saying, “That music is just too darned loud,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting old. This response could be your body’s way of informing you that you’re at risk of hearing damage. If following the concert you’ve been left with a ringing in your ears (tinnitus), or you are not able to hear quite as well for a couple of days, you have probably experienced NIHL – noise-induced hearing loss.

This may happen even with brief exposures to high decibel noises, and occurs because high decibel sounds can result in physical damage to the very small hair cells that receive auditory signals in the inner ear and transmit the signals to the brain, where they’re translated into sounds. Luckily for most people, the noise-induced hearing loss they suffer following a single exposure to very loud music is short-lived, and goes away after a day or so. However if you continue to expose your ears to loud music or noise, it can cause a case of tinnitus that does not go away, or a permanent loss of hearing.

A pair of factors determine how much harm is done to hearing by contact with loud sounds – precisely how loud the noises are, and also the period of time you are exposed to them. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels, a scale that is somewhat illusory because it’s logarithmic, meaning that each increase of ten on the scale means that the noise is two times as loud. Noisy city traffic at 85 decibels is thus not just a little louder than normal speech at 65 decibels, it is 4 times louder. A rock and roll concert, at which the sound level is commonly in the vicinity of 115 decibels, is 10 times louder than normal speech. The additional factor that impacts how much hearing damage occurs from loud music is how long you are in contact with it, what audiologists call the permissible exposure time. Loss of hearing may occur from being exposed to sound at 85 decibels after only eight hours. At 115 decibels the permissible exposure time before you face the possibility of hearing loss is less than a minute. Add to this the fact that the noise level at some concerts has been measured in excess of 140 decibels, and you’ve got a high risk predicament.

Forecasts from audiologists say that by 2050 around 50 million Americans will have sustained hearing loss resulting from exposure to loud music. Live concert promoters, since being informed about this, have begun to offer attendees inexpensive ear plugs to wear during their concerts.One well known UK rock and roll band even partnered with an earplug producer to offer them free of charge to people attending its concerts. A few concertgoers have reported seeing signs inside various venues that say, “Earplugs are sexy.” In reality, sporting earplugs at a live concert might not really be all that sexy, but if they safeguard your hearing it might be worth considering.

We can help you select a pair. If a high decibel rock concert is in your future, we strongly suggest that you think about wearing a good pair.