Hearing damage real issue for ravers

"As a licensed audiologist in the USA, I was pleased to see that you included information about hearing loss from exposure to the loud music of raves, but there were some inaccuracies that need to be addressed.

First, the damage that occurs from exposure to loud music is not only permanent, it is immediate. Many ravers and clubbers will experience permanent hearing damage during the party, but may not notice it until later, often in the form of difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise, like in a restaurant or at a party. As time goes on, the damage can worse and problems can include difficulty even in quiet situations. Another common result of exposure to very loud music is ringing in the ears (tinnitus), which most ravers and clubbers report hearing immediately upon leaving the party. This tinnitus is a symptom of damage to the structures of the ears.

A recent study revealed that the level of sound in dance clubs in San Francisco often reached 115 dB, the same loudness level as a sandblaster and louder than a power saw. These sound levels can cause damage within seconds, not minutes or hours. It's important to note that these measurements were taken at some distance from the sound speakers, such as at the bar. The closer you are to the sound source, the louder it is - a sound that is 115 dB from 12 feet away can be 121 dB at 3 feet away! Dancing in front of the speakers is the surest way to permanently damage your hearing.

Sticking toilet paper in the ears will, at most, reduce sound levels by about 7 dB and is wholly ineffective. Of particular danger is that doing so can give ravers and clubbers a false sense of security, leading them to move closer to the speakers and therefore, to even greater damage. Earplugs designed specifically to reduce the loudness of sounds are the only safe defense from hearing loss. The cheap foam plugs you can buy at the drug store are quite effective when used properly (less that $1 US per pair). Custom-made high-fidelity earplugs that are formed specifically for an individual's own ears last for many years, are much more comfortable than foam plugs, and provide excellent protection while maintaining a clear, crisp sound quality (about $150 US per pair).

Unfortunately, you're correct in stating that commonly used ear plugs block "most of the sound" out-- the inexpensive foam earplugs over-reduce the high-frequencies, reducing the clarity of the music and making it sound muffled and "boomy." High-fidelity plugs eliminate these problems, but they are somewhat expensive. Can rolled-up tissue paper or toilet roll be considered "better than nothing?" Tissue paper provides a false sense of protection that can actually be worse than nothing because it leads party-goers to believe they can safely dance nearer the speakers, etc., thus potentially resulting in greater damage.

There is one particular compromise in terms of cost/sound quality/protection. There are hi-fidelity "stock" earplugs called "ER-20's" that retail for about $35 US per pair. These are not custom fit but they are comfortable and long-lasting. They provide about 20 decibels of attenuation-- typically adequate for most environments-- but without reducing the crispness, clarity and naturalness of the sound quality. The only potential drawback is that when they're in place, they look a bit like Frankenstein ears because there's a stem that sticks out of the ear. Then again, maybe it would start a new fashion trend among club kids. . . !

And if you think that hearing loss is only for old people, or that it can't happen to you, it's important to know that Great Britain's Royal Institute of the Deaf found that 62% of regular clubbers have symptoms of hearing loss."

Letter from Steve Benton (steve@audioconsult.com)

17th January 2001



Disclaimer This Guide is provided for informational purposes ONLY. RaveSafe, it's volunteers and its sponsors do not condone or advocate the use of illegal substances. RaveSafe accepts NO responsibility for the way the information in this used, nor for any harm that might occur from the use of the information contained in this document. Although a concerted effort has been made to ensure the validity of the information contained in this document, no guarantees or assurances of accuracy are provided by anyone. Read and act at your own risk.

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Last updated 05/17/2001