Can you hear me now?
By Rebecca Schwartz
While blasting Ashlee Simpson and cruising down US1 may seem cool, you can be sure it is damaging your ears. And why do we choose to blast Ms. Simpson to the neighbors anyway?
At parties, if the music is really loud there is no room for awkward conversation, right? But before it was purely about pumping the tunes to be socially acceptable, volume was increased for economic reasons.
Late 18th century concert halls had to increase their size in order to accommodate more middle class patrons, since members of the ruling class were no longer funding performances, according to Bernard Sherman’s “Inside Early Music.” But because the orchestra stayed the same size, performers had to increase the volume to ear-damaging levels.
“Loud noises destroy the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that signal the auditory nerve to send sound messages to the brain. Once those cells die, they never grow back. Noise may also cause ‘tinnitus,’ a ringing in the ears. Besides being a constant annoyance, tinnitus often signals impending hearing loss,” claims a Food and Drug Administration report entitled, “On the Teen Scene: Protect the Best Ears of Your Life.”
Today electrical amplifiers have enabled consumers to listen to music at very high volumes without it being distorted. Because hearing loss is cumulative, regular attendance at shows and concerts puts the listener at a greater risk of suffering from tinnitus.
People who work around loud noise are required to wear ear protection anytime the noise reaches above 85 decibels. There are no regulations concerning audiences, however, and oftentimes concerts reach above 120 decibels.
According to “Clubbers risk losing the sound of silence,” a Times Online article, “music in nightclubs is usually played in the 95-110 decibel range and the advent of ‘all-nighters’ means that clubbers are exposed to these high levels for long periods.”
This generation is certainly not the only culprit; loud noise is all around. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health reported that “one-third of all hearing loss cases stem at least in part from the loud noises of modern life: power lawn mowers, jet engines, city traffic, loud appliances, rock music, stereo headsets.”
Although the effects may not be immediate, if we want to preserve this precious sense, we need to be more responsible. Try to limit concert intake and give ears a break.
Turn down the volume on stereos; neighbors are not obligated to listen too. Do not stand right up against the speakers; noise is not felt, but heard. When going a noisy event, wear earplugs. They can reduce volume up to 20 decibels.
And if earplugs interfere with being “cool,” picture hearing aids in their place. Because at this noisy rate, that is where we are all headed.