In the past wearing earplugs in social or professional music environments has to some extent seemed uncool. However, times are a changin' and the next generation of music lovers and makers are much more aware of the dangers of being exposed to loud music for long periods of time. This is thanks to important work by the World Health Organisation, the British Tinnitus Association and dedicated international hearing protection manufacturers like ACS Custom.
The outcome of too much loud music over time will destroy your hearing, which for anyone who loves and makes music is a disaster! Imagine not being able to hear music with all the frequencies and in hi-fidelity, to mix a track properly or to hear and join in conservations when out with friends. Think about it.
Hearing is one of the most sensitive human senses and very important, especially if music is your life! There are two forms of damage that can occur together or separately. When the sound level is too loud it flattens down the tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea in the inner ear, which send sound nerve impulses to the brain. Basically, if you keep flattening these down, after time they die off and don't grow back. The sensory hair cells all respond to different frequencies. So when you damage them you don't go totally deaf but lose different tones across the auditory bandwidth, which is usually the mid and high frequencies. This is called Music Induced Hearing Loss. Imagine turning the treble or mid tone control down on your mixer and the music becomes less clear and muffled – that's what can happen to your hearing. More often than not if there has been damage to the cochlea sensory hair cells you can end up with Tinnitus too, which is a constant perception of ringing or buzzing sound in your head. This for some people can be major problem both in their personal and professional life.
What DJs and club goers alike should be aware of is two crucial impact factors. The sound level and your exposure time. Sound is measured in decibels (dB A) and it's important to realise that that is a logarithmic measurement of sound pressure. So a 3dB increase in sound level is twice as loud. Now, if the volume is twice as loud then, you should halve your exposure time. Simple. So here's an example: An acoustic drumkit not even being played with a hard, heavy metal groove is about 94dB (A). Your safe exposure time, would you believe, at this volume is approximately 1 hour. So, if you increase the sound level by 3dB to 97dB (A) then your safe exposure is now 30 minutes. Most clubs will have sound levels louder than this at around 100dB, which is very common, so your safe exposure time is just 15 minutes!