“If music be the food of love, play on…” Thank you, Shakespeare, but you should have had an addendum: “…and play loudly, but pop in those earplugs.”
This weekend I had the honor to work with MusiCares and Sensaphonics at Lollapalooza, educating talent and crew on the importance of hearing protection and taking earmold impressions for custom earplugs. Music festivals are loud, and that’s part of the fun. However, when it’s so loud that you hear a constant ringing sound the next day, it means you’ve been overexposed to loud sound and have potentially subjected yourself to injury. Are Lolla concertgoers at risk for ear injury or other music-induced hearing disorders? I took some sound level measures with my trusty little Radio Shack meter and here’s what we got:
G Jones ~ 150 ft. from the stage: 95 – 97 dBA (electronic, DJed music)
Guess we don’t care much about dynamic range here… Ok, here’s what the numbers mean:
The more conservative NIOSH safe listening scale, which protects 92% of the population, says we can subject ourselves to sound levels of 94 dBA for only 1 hour without risk for permanent injury to our ears. (The OSHA scale would tell us we have almost 4 hours.) Don’t fret, however, there’s an easy fix and you won’t have to miss any of the festivities. If you pop in the Etymotic ER20 (audiologist-approved, low cost earplugs that maintain decent sound quality) you can now listen all day without risk (unless you fall in that 8%)! Even better, if you invest in some custom, silicone musician’s earplugs with a low 9 dB filter, you can still listen for about 8 hours without risk for injury 94 dB – 9 dB = 85 dB), and the sound quality will still be close to what you hear with the naked ears. It might even better since we won’t be overdriving our ossicles! We’ll get into more details about how to choose appropriate earplugs, filters, noise doses and exchange rates with future posts.
Custom, silicone earplugs by Sensaphonics.
*For the nerds out there, if you’re wondering why the levels are the same regardless of my distance from the stage, it’s because they have massive speaker arrays so no matter how far you stand from the stage you’ll hear the music without a delay (sound travels much more slowly than light). This keeps the sound levels even as well.