One night, you go to watch your oldest grandchild in her first school play. It is a big event for everyone. There is the school band playing as you arrive and you take your seat to watch the performance. Yet the background music throughout the performance is loud.
The next night you are off to a gig see your youngest child ( grown up) perform in their band. That was even louder than the night before. Three hours later you leave exhausted.
It’s date night the next night, so you take your beloved to the movies. Why do they have to play the movie so loud, you think.
The next night you are sitting in your lounge room and put your favourite music on. Music just sounds better when it is a little louder. It somehow enhances the experience.
The sounds of the laughter of children, the swell of the background music are colourful aspects of daily life that are communicated to us via our sense of hearing. They are part of living your life well. At the back of your mind, you wonder if you are damaging your hearing! Are you?
It’s natural to wonder if you are exposing yourself to too much sound.
You know that noise-induced hearing loss is a reality. Your own father has significant difficulty hearing because he was a farmer and worked around noisy machinery. You don’t want to be like him and miss out on so much.
Many people find themselves wondering if they are damaging their hearing while engaging in their daily life?
Understanding when sound, whether it is noise or music, has the potential to damage your hearing is important.
Hearing is an important asset that helps us respond to and interact with the world. Age-related hearing loss is a pervasive problem that often affects older adults’ quality of life. Such hearing loss can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, like determining where a sound is coming from, distinguishing speech from background noise, and understanding emotions conveyed in speech—all of which can lead to isolation and depression. Hearing loss is often associated with aging but there is a clear link between listening to and producing music this article is about.
Sound is important to your wellbeing. We all love listening to music and appreciate the skill that goes into producing it for our listening pleasure.
However, it is a fact that many musicians and those associated in producing music are at high risk of hearing loss, even at an early age. It is not restricted to rock musicians either, as classically trained musicians are equally at risk. Even the music teacher who is exposed to sound 5 days a week is at risk.
1. Hearing loss noise exposure usually means a reduction in your range of hearing in the high frequencies. This shows up as speech is loud enough, just not clear. You can hear a pin drop but not hearing other sounds.
2. Tinnitus. This usually shows up as ringing in your ears. You can learn more about tinnitus here.
3. Sensitivity to sound. One of the side effects of trauma to your ear is increased sensitivity to sounds whose loudness were okay before. We talk about two types of sound sensitivity, hyperacusis and recruitment.
4. Loss of appreciation for music. Music just doesn’t sound like you remember.
5. Difficulty hearing in group situations. Because the high frequency range of your hearing is often affected, you lose the ability to hear speech in any competing sound.
What was happening for my friend who had a busy week enjoying life and being exposed to many different sounds? Was he at risk?
To be honest It’s difficult to say. He was certainly starting to have large doses of noise exposure. I would be recommending he looks at reducing some of his exposure to noise, only because his range of hearing is already reduced a little.
What I recommend is where he can, when it is under his control, on busy listening weeks like this, he should lower the volume of what he listens to. It would be hard to walk out of the school performance, but maybe at the gig, he could of in half time gone outside to somewhere quiet to give his ears time to rest.
I would recommend choosing a quiet night for the date. Just spread out the noise exposure over time. And as for his night at home listening to music, this would be a great time to turn the volume down and only turn it up for the special song or two.
Now imagine a sophisticated symphony performance. Which group of musicians would be more likely to suffer hearing loss?
Believe it or not, Classical music — or specifically playing classical music — can be more damaging than rock music. Research has shown about 30% of rock musicians have a hearing loss, and about 52% of classical musicians suffer from this problem. The main difference is that classical musicians rehearse, perform, and teach more hours each week than typical rock musicians and classical musicians tend to be clustered closer together than rock musicians. So even though the peak sound levels in a rock band may be higher than in an orchestra, the total weekly dosage of a classical musician is greater.
Here are The 5 facts about the potential of loud music and sound to damage your hearing
1. First, you need to understand how loud or intense the music is? A sound doesn’t have to be that loud, it is its intensity, that is damaging A simple rule for when you are on the spot is, if you can still hear someone speak 1 metre away without anyone raising their voice it probably is not too loud.
2. The difficulty is it is also the length of time you are in that loud situation as important as the loudness of the music. A small increase in loudness means dramatically less time you can afford to be in that situation before damage may occur.
3. How you are feeling that day makes a difference to your risk of having hearing damage. If you are feeling anxious, stressed you are more at risk of having hearing damage than if you are happy and relaxed.
4. If you already have hearing damage, then you are more susceptible to further hearing damage from repeated noise exposure than someone who has no hearing damage.
5. It appears 30% of the population have a genetic predisposition to developing hearing loss from noise exposure. Are you one of those? Look into your family for any trends to develop noise induced hearing loss.
Most of the early signs of hearing loss show up as a temporary change in your hearing. You go to a loud concert or have a long day in noise and maybe your hearing is muffled and there is some ringing in your ears. This typically resolves 16-18 hours later if you have a sound rest.
It shows you if you have a small insignificant shift, a larger shift (orange) or major shift (red) as an indicator of too much noise exposure.
If you go into the orange or red range, hearing protection would be recommended next time you are in a similar environment.
We recommend everyone have their hearing checked regularly, not just to find out if their hearing is damaged, but to find out and start learning about this important sense of ours. Hearing enriches our lives and provides us with the opportunity to connect with the world.
Then it is a matter of making sure the information you receive is right for you. Nolene Nielson Audiologist offers online expert and impartial advice on your personal situation. Get In Touch With Nolene