Protecting Your Hearing At Loud Events

Listening to loud music at a concert or nightclub for extended periods of time can leave your ears ringing. Research published in JAMA Otolaryngology suggests wearing earplugs to loud events can reduce or prevent temporary hearing loss and tinnitus.

Cases of acquired hearing loss are on the rise, with rates among adolescents up by 31% since 1988, according to the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The trend may be related to exposure to recreational noise through attending concerts, festivals, nightclubs and other music venues.  Loud music at such events can expose individuals to sound pressure levels of 100-110 decibels (dBA) for several hours, a known cause of hearing loss. Hearing loss due to this type of exposure is normally temporary.

Short-term exposure to extremely loud noise, or levels above 140 dBA, can cause acoustic trauma, with direct damage potentially leading to permanent hearing loss.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the maximum safe exposure time for listening to noise at 85 dBA is 8 hours.

For 100 dBA, guidelines recommend a maximum of 15 minutes, and for 106 dBA, just 3.75 minutes. For comparison, busy city traffic is approximately 85 dBA and a rock concert at 115 dBA.

Reduce Hearing Loss At Loud Music Events

Dr. Wilko Grolman, PhD, of the University Medical Center at Utrecht in the Netherlands, and colleagues have been looking at whether earplugs can help prevent temporary hearing loss after listening to loud music.

The researchers carried out a random controlled trial (RCT) involving 51 volunteers, with an average age of 27 years. Participants, whom they recruited through social media, attended an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam. The time-averaged sound pressure level was 100 dBA, and the concert lasted for 4.5 hours.  The team randomly assigned the participants to two groups. In one were 25 people who wore earplugs. The other 26 did not.  They then used an audiogram to measure any level of hearing loss, or temporary threshold shift (TTS).

Results showed that the proportion of participants with temporary hearing loss was 8% in the earplug group, and 42% among those without earplugs. Moreover, only 12% of those with earplugs experienced tinnitus, compared with 40% in the unprotected group.

The researchers believe that if people were aware of the benefits of earplugs, they would be more likely to use them to protect their hearing.  They note that although this type of hearing loss is growing in prevalence worldwide, there is a lack of evidence and knowledge regarding the effects.

If you have questions about potential hearing loss, hearing aids or ear plugs, please contact one of our hearing specialists, we are happy to help! (310) 477-5558.


Much of the information in this post was taken from