If you’ve ever been to a concert, you’ve experienced how loud live amplified music is. Of course, a solo violinist’s performance in the park is vastly different from a rock band blasting gigantic speakers throughout a packed arena. Inevitably, those who frequently attend loud musical events will ask: Should you wear ear plugs at concerts?
At What Decibel Level Should You Wear Ear Plugs?
If you want to protect your hearing, you should wear ear plugs at loud events. Studies have shown that when exposed to loud music, the use of ear plugs can be effective in preventing temporary hearing loss.
So what is considered to be loud music?
Any exposure to sounds that range above 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss. At 85 decibels, the ears pick up loud sounds such as those made from a food blender or heavy traffic. The hubbub of a noisy restaurant or other tightly packed spaces can also reach 85 dB. An average-sized dog barks around 90 dB, while bigger dogs can bark above that level. These are noise levels that are common and occur frequently in our environment.
The intention of a live concert is to play music at extremely loud levels, so everyone can hear. Concerts can easily range up to and above 120 dB. Depending on your seat’s proximity to the speakers, you could be exposed to even louder levels. Wearing ear plugs can lessen the effect of excessive noise on your delicate inner ears.
Ear Plug Pros and Cons
In 2016 a study was done in Amsterdam to determine if ear plugs had any effect on concertgoers. Ear plugs were distributed to half the attendees at a music festival. The other half were not given ear plugs. The study showed that of those who did not wear ear plugs at the festival, 42 percent experienced hearing loss, and 40 percent had resulting tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Conversely, of the concertgoers who wore ear plugs at the festival, only 8 percent experienced hearing loss, and 12 percent had resulting tinnitus.
Other similar studies over the years have backed up the 2016 Amsterdam findings. Exposure to continuous loud noise causes hearing loss. Most of the time, it is temporary, though frequent exposure can cause permanent loss of hearing.
Ear plugs do the important job of stopping excessive sound decibels from damaging the cochlea. This is the hollow, spiral-shaped bone in the inner ear that allows us to hear.
The only con to wearing ear plugs at concerts might be that they can be uncomfortable if inserted improperly. Forcing ear plugs too far into the ear canal can cause damage as well.
Three Types of Ear Plugs
Depending on what level of protection you’re looking for, there’s an ear plug for you.
- Standard ear plugs — Typically made of foam, you can find these in many drug stores and supermarkets. Standard ear plugs come in all sizes and are cost-effective. They do an excellent job of muffling excessive noise, which can also lessen the quality of sound.
- Pre-molded ear plugs — These are plastic or silicone-based. Some pre-molded ear plugs have sound-muffling filters. This can make it a preferable choice over standard ear plugs for concertgoers.
- Custom musician’s ear plugs — These are the most expensive and effective ear plugs on the market. Custom musicians' ear plugs cut down on excessive decibels but also maintain the quality of the sound they are producing.
What To Do If You Suspect You Have Hearing Loss
If you have been exposed to loud music at a concert or suspect you have some other hearing-related injury, consult a physician. The staff at Bass Medical has an entire otolaryngology department dedicated to all the ailments that occur in the ear, nose, and throat. Contact us today with any questions you have or for an ear exam today.