Most people are aware that exposure to extremely loud noises can damage the ears and result in hearing issues over time, however many people are surprised to learn that listening to loud music can also result in permanent damage to your hearing. In fact, just 15 minutes of listening to very loud music is enough to result in irreversible damage. Current standards in place to protect people from loud sounds in the workplace state that no one be exposed to any sound louder than 85 dB for longer than 8 hours. Additionally with every 3dB increase above 85 dB, the exposure time is cut in half. The average rock concert is an estimated 106 dB limiting the time of exposure to less than 4 minutes based on the above guidelines!
Most of us have experienced a temporary shift in hearing or a buzzing in the ears following a concert. Typically these symptoms dissipate within 16 hours following exposure to loud music, however with repeated exposure the likelihood that temporary symptoms will become permanent increases. With a variety of hearing protection available on the market, including non-custom earplugs, custom ear plugs, and in-ear monitors, listening to music and attending concerts can be enjoyable and protect your hearing as well.
The non-custom (one-size-fits-most) earplug is a less expensive option for everyday use. This option is best for less intense noise, but is not the best option for more intense sound levels, frequent concert attendees or musicians. When placed properly in the ear canal, they are designed to provide up to 29dB of attenuation over the unprotected ear. Because the earplugs are non-custom, they attenuate or “roll off” the high frequencies resulting in what is often described as a “flat” or “muddy” sound quality.
Custom-made earplugs are created from an impression of the ear canal taken by your audiologist. These molds are then sent to a lab where the final product is created. Custom molds are more comfortable, and easier to insert and maintain. Custom plugs provide an even attenuation of the sound relative to your hearing, resulting in a sound that is clear and natural. Custom earplugs are available with interchangeable filters providing attenuation of 9dB, 15dB or 25dB making them even easier to customize based on the situation and listener preference.
In-ear monitors (IEMs) are devices used by musicians and audiophiles engineered specifically to reduce ambient noise. Most IEMs reduce between 20-25 dB of ambient sound allowing musicians to hear vocals or instrumentation above the noise of the crowd. This gives musicians control over the volume of their performance and reduces the overall level of noise exposure. IEMs are available with bud style earpieces to custom molded earpieces. While the bud style is appropriate for using IEMs with MP3 players or other portable devices, for live performances, a custom mold is highly recommended to appropriately reduce the ambient noise levels and provide the best long-term hearing protection.
An appointment with one of our audiologists will allow you to discuss your personal listening habits and choose the musician product that is most appropriate for you.