In recent years it seems like every day is some sort of national day of celebration. Everything from National Doughnut Day, to Put a Pillow On Your Fridge Day (say what?), to Bloody Mary Day (we’ll drink to that), the monthly and daily observances are endless.
Among these fun, quirky, and bizarre days of recognition, there is one day that is worth our attention: May 31st, National Save Your Hearing Day.
Save Your Hearing Day is a yearly reminder to turn down the the music and the loud noises in our lives. It is best celebrated in peaceful environments while abiding by the 60:60 rule: listening to music at 60% of volume capacity for less than 60 minutes (this applying to concerts as well). 1
With festival season upon us, there is no better time than now to honor this day and our ears. We sat down with our good friend Katie Carmody, founder of We’re hEAR For You, to talk about hearing loss and prevention, and to gain an understanding of “how loud is too loud.”
Noise exposure accounts for much of hearing loss in adults and has been noted as a primary factor in hearing loss in young adults and adolescents. Recreational and community noise exposure can lead to high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. Damage from noise exposure can often be traced to listening to amplified music through headphones or sound systems, while playing music, attending concerts or dance venues, or other noisy activities.
We’re hEAR for You (WHFY) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the awareness of noise-induced hearing loss, hearing loss prevention, and the use of earplugs among the music community. The organization promotes the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus by educating individuals about the risks of noise exposure and the importance of of using hearing protection. WHFY provides free earplugs at a variety of music venues in Georgia and at a growing number of music festivals nationwide, and also offers free hearing screenings through the University of Georgia Speech Hearing Clinic.
“Hearing conservation has been a passion of mine because I have always been a huge music fan, mostly due to my father,” said Carmody. “I grew up listening to music nightly at home, and going t concerts with my family. I always knew that my father had tinnitus, or constant ringing in your ears, which developed after seeing a concert in his earlier years. Knowing this, and as an avid live music fan, I knew the importance of protecting your hearing. Now, working in the music industry, and being around live music on a daily basis, it is my crusade to educate music lovers of all kind about using hearing protection and the science that supports it.”
The constant ringing of the ears that Carmody mentioned is one of the many effects of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time (The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur). The severity of the hearing loss depends on the level, duration, and frequency content of the exposure. Exposure to dangerous levels of noise can often be traced to listening to amplified music through headphones or sound systems, while playing music, attending rock concerts or dance venues, and other everyday noisy activities. Short term effects of NIHL can include auditory fatigue and possible ringing the following day, and can even lead to long term effects such as hearing loss to the point of needing hearing aids.
So how loud is too loud? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), both the level of noise and the length of time you listen to the noise can put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. “Sound is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise, and the louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur,” Carmody said. “Normal conversation occurs around 60dB. Exposure to sound over 85dB for more than 7 minutes without hearing protection results in noise induced hearing loss. Concerts can run 120+, the same for Sporting events.”
For those who attend concerts/festivals and have never thought about hearing protection, Carmody offered a few points to consider:
- Noise induced hearing loss is 100% permanent and 100% preventable. It is essential you use hearing protection.
- When your ears ring after a show, it is your ears telling you your hearing is damaged, and you will not hear at that frequency again.
- If you have to raise your voice/scream to communicate with someone next to you, its too loud! Wear earplugs, take a break & move farther away from the speakers.
Carmody also had a message for individuals who may believe they can deal with the consequences at a later date:
“Hearing loss is gradual. Many times you may not know you have hearing loss, unless you get your hearing checked by an audiologist. Here’s a great example of our logic: When you go in the sun, say at a music festival, you take many precautions to protect yourself; sunscreen to protect your skin, shoes to protect your feet, sunglasses to protect your eyes, what about your ears? It is as simple as that, especially at a live music event! Noise exposure is damaging, and we should be more considerate of our ears, and the role hearing has in our lives. To be smart about your hearing now will save you a lot of trouble in your later years. Hearing loss is gradual, therefore you may not notice that you have hearing loss, until it is too late! Take action now, to prevent irreversible damage down the road.”
Interested in protecting your ears? There are several different forms of hearing protection to choose from:
- Foam earplugs – ideal for casual concert-goers: It’s the starter earplug and WHFY provides these in mass at festival & concerts nationwide.
- High Fidelity reusable earplugs – We recommend all live music fans to invest in a pair of high fidelity reusable plugs, like Earlove, that are high quality and provide a flat response decibel reduction. Also, reusable = less waste! The preserving our environment, like preserving our hearing, is important to We’re hEAR For You. Using reusable (and higher quality) earplugs helps reduce the amount of waste generated at live music events.
- Musicians Earplugs – For musicians! Yours ears and ability to hear are your life, your love and your career! See your local audiologist for more details.
- Children’s Hearing Protection Earmuffs – Not only are they adorable, but the earmuffs provide superior hearing protection for those little ears.
We’re hEAR for you has partnered with Headcount this festival season and will distribute earplugs at these upcoming festivals:
Gathering of the Vibes
It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.