I wrote this article few year ago on some forums regarding ear damage that I believe is important to share.
It’s a bit long, but i think every musician or music fan should be aware of this info…hope it’s clear enough, I tried to make it as simple as possible.
Most of us are unaware of the damage caused to our ears in every concert we go to, or whenever we plug those earphones; this article is to raise awareness on this
subject, specially that we know that we can’t live without music.
**To put things into numbers, what is dB**
In audio, loudness is measured using dB, and this measurement is greatly affected by how far you are from the sound source;
– a typical conversation is 60dB loud (1m)
– a car from 7 meters is around 80 dB loud
– a blender in the kitchen (1m away) is 90 dB loud
dB is a logarithmic scale, which means to increase the level by 3dB one has to double the power (for example: if you have an amp that’s 100 watts giving 90 dB, you
need 200 watts to give 93 dB, and 400 watts to give 96 dB – so you can imagine how much more ‘power’ is entering your ears with every 3dB increase?
dB is a function of distance, so 90dB at 1m is 93dB at 0.5m and 87dB at 2m (+3dB when you half the distance, -3dB when you double the distance)
In concerts and in jam-rooms, the sound is not less than 110 dB, and usually around 120 dB
**Safe ear-exposure times**
This is a list of safe ear-exposure times at certain loudness levels:
dB > Safe Exposure Time
85 dB > 8 hours
88 dB > 4 hours
91 dB > 2 hours
94 dB > 1 hour
97 dB > 30 minutes
100 dB > 15 minutes
103 dB > 7.5 minutes
106 dB > 3.75 min (< 4min)
109 dB > 1.875 min (< 2min)
112 dB >.9375 min (~1 min)
115 dB >.46875 min (~30 sec)
As you see, in a concert you’re only safe exposing your ears to loud music for barely half a minute! Every moment after that becomes damaging to your ears (ever had your ear rings after a concert?!)
**How the ear works & why they ring after a concert**
Ears capture sound through hair cells that vibrate with sound (they capture the sound), these hair cells are connected to nerve cells which send the signal to the brain.
Whenever your ears ring after a concert, that means you exceeded the safe exposure time for your ears, which also means some of the hair and/or nerve cells in your
ears died (and as you know, nerve cells NEVER regenerate),
If it’s only the hair cells that broke off , these can grow back… but the louder it is, the more chances nerve cells are dying.
The ringing is how your brain perceives the response of dead nerve cells or non existing hair cells
In other words, you’re making yourself go more DEAF whenever you go to a loud place without ear protection
There is a certain threshold before you actually realize there’s hearing loss, but after that certain limit is reached, you suddenly realize you can’t hear well and it’s
too late (it’s not progressive hearing loss, it is sudden after a certain amount of cells die, and it starts getting worse after that phase); some other signs of ear damage
include permanent ear ringing (tinnitus)
**What is threshold level?**
If you have 1000 nerve cells and lose 500, you won’t notice any difference…considering the threshold is 300, you will still hear properly with 300 nerve cells…but
once you have 299 nerve cells, you suddenly realize you lost hearing and it gets worse from there
(the same effect occurs if the hair cells are breaking off, but these can grow back…if in some case you felt you lost your hearing for a day and it came back…it’s
because of the hair cells that grew back, but you would have, for sure, lost some nerve cells along the way…)
*Comparing ears to eyes!*
Each eye has 125 million photoreceptor nerve cells. Each ear has around 20,000 hair cells (connected to same amount of nerve cells). Damage starts from the top (hair cell), and excessively down to burning the nerve cell itself.
So you can see how more sensitive ears are !
**Local places dB measurements**
Here’s actual dB values from local places that I measured with a dB meter, these were measured around from the center of the room (about 2m away from the
– Keep in mind that 100 dB at 1m is 103 dB at 0.5m and 106 dB at 0.25m (or 97 dB at 2m); when you double the distance you decrease 3 dB, when you half the distance you increase 3 dB
– average volume at Cherry’s is 112 dB (depends on event)
– at Nova, 117-120 dB (in front of speakers 125 dB)
– an average band practice 110-125dB (ziko’s locale)
– up front in a concert next to the speakers (< 0.5m), it is easily over 125 dB
Checking the above chart, at 115 dB , your ears are only safe for 30 seconds ! after that, you’re already damaging your ears (at 118 dB, your ears are safe for half the
time, 15 seconds…121dB 7 seconds, etc…)
So think of the damage you cause your ears everytime you go to an event keeping in mind that 80 dB won’t be perceived as loud…it’s “3ade”, but it actually is loud
for your ears.
Quick reference: whenever you have to raise your voice for others to hear you, then you’re already over 80 dB.
I once went half deaf for 3 days due to a certain mishap at a concert after which i decided to always use earplugs (a monitor went off, then turned on when i was
very very close to it, 600 watt monitor went on at full power in my ears).
ALWAYS use earplugs, you can get cheap ones for 2$ from any pharmacy, but these affect how you hear the music..
Cheap earplugs lower high frequencies (talking/vocals, guitars, cymbals, etc…) but the bass stays loud in volume (bass is harder to lower in volume, that’s why you
usually only hear the thumping bass outside night clubs).
Musicians should get musician earplugs, but unfortunately they’re not available in Lebanon…I get mine online (hearos hifi series).
Once you start using earplugs you never go back….not only you protect your ears, but everything in a concert becomes much clearer and less noisy.
Using earphones and listening to music is VERY damaging to the ears…because the phones are directly stuck inside your ears, maybe 10 cm away you barely hear
them, but inside your ears they’re actually over 100 dB! so be careful when you use them…a safe volume level for earphones is when you can still listen to what’s
going on outside…
Here’s some more reading about ear damage