I went to a concert last night and my ears are still ringing. Will this stop?
The ringing is called tinnitus and refers to any noises that are heard in the head, that don’t come from the outside. Tinnitus comes in two flavors—objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is tinnitus that can be heard by other people. This is very rare, and is usually related to blood vessel problems in the ear. Subjective tinnitus is much more common and refers to the type of tinnitus that only the person can hear. But, to answer your question: You are probably suffering from TTS from the concert. If your tinnitus persists your first step is to have a full assessment with an experienced diagnostic audiologist.
What is TTS?
TTS stands for Temporary Threshold Shift. This is a fancy way of saying temporary hearing loss. After a loud concert, or a day in the factory, your hearing is temporarily reduced. After about 16 hours to 18 hours, this resolves and your hearing should return to the level it was before (hopefully normal). When the hearing is reduced, there is frequently tinnitus, which is especially noticed in quiet places such as when you are trying to sleep. The tinnitus and hearing loss (sometimes felt as a numbness in your ears) should completely resolve after 16 hours.
If my tinnitus goes away after 16 hours, is it safe to go to another concert after?
The short answer is “yes” and “no”. It is true that the ear recovers after about 16 hours and can take on new challenges of loud music, but TTS is a warning signal of being exposed to too much music. If you go to a rock concert on Friday night, don’t mow your lawn until Sunday (or better yet, get someone else to do it!) However, once you have a music related (or noise related) hearing loss, it is permanent, so do whatever it takes to prevent it. Certainly moderation is one idea. Enjoy that loud song, but when it’s over, turn down the volume a bit to give your ears a rest.
When I go to a concert in a large venue, the band is set back from the edge of the stage. Is this to protect them from the fans?
How observant you are! It may be to protect them, but there is an acoustic reason as well. The lip of the stage in front of the band or orchestra acts as an acoustic mirror. That is, the higher pitched sounds of the band not only come off the stage to the audience but also reflect off the lip of the stage, thereby enhancing the higher pitched sounds. The band members don’t have to play as loud up on stage in order for the people in the audience to hear it better. Not only are the musicians performing at a safer level, but the potential for arm and wrist injuries are lessened.
All information is provided in the interests of Hearing Health education and is of a general nature. In all cases you should consult your doctor or other allied health professional for advice regarding your individual circumstances.