Now, research published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery suggests wearing earplugs to events in order to reduce or prevent temporary hearing loss and tinnitus.
Events with loud music can expose party-goers to dangerous levels of noise.
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 every 3 dBAs over 85 dBA, exposure time before possible damage can occur is halved.
For comparison, Dangerous Decibels – a public health campaign designed to reduce hearing loss – puts the sound of a whisper around 20 dBA, busy city traffic at 85 dBA and a rock concert at 115 dBA.
Earplugs reduce tinnitus and hearing loss after exposure to loud music
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.
Fast facts about hearing loss
Children may receive more noise at school than workers spending 8 hours at a factory
Some 10 million Americans have permanent hearing loss from noise or trauma
12.5% of 6-19-year-olds in Australia have high hearing thresholds due to noise exposure.
The researchers carried out a trial involving 51 volunteers, with an average age of 27 years. Participants 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.