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Activity General Health Sep 29, 2022

Protect Your Hearing During Festival Season

Check out part one of this survival kit to help you thrive at your next concert or festival.

Reviewed by: Sarah Hite, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
Written by: Kaylee Fang

A closeup of a woman's ear is shown with silver studs and a yellow earplug.

Music lovers are https://uthealthaustin.org/cub…in for a treat during the live events in Central Texas, from Austin City Limits to SXSW. Therefore, it’s important to keep up with healthy hearing to ensure you can enjoy music for many more years to come. UT Health Austin Walk-in Clinic clinician, Sarah Hite, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, shares tips to prevent hearing loss at concerts and festivals.

Importance of Hearing Protection

Sound is measured in decibels, also known as dB. Safe sounds are considered under 80 dB. Anything under 80 dB will not damage your hearing unless exposure lasts several hours.

“If you know you are going to be exposed to loud noise, or noise for a prolonged amount of time, you should wear hearing protection to prevent hearing loss,” recommends Sarah.

The average outdoor festival ranges from 90 to 100 dB. Inside concert halls can be from 95 to 110 or more dB. At times, the immediate damage is not apparent, but after multiple exposures over a lifetime, you may suddenly realize hearing loss, all of which could be prevented.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Exposure to loud noises can be hazardous due to the damage it can cause to the delicate structures in the inner ear. It may result in noise-induced hearing loss that is either gradual or noticed immediately. This type of hearing is permanent and cumulative.

Tinnitus

Frequent exposure to loud music can also lead to a permanent ringing in one or both ears, known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is a common condition that affects about 15% to 20% of people worldwide. The sound occasionally may be so loud that it severely affects cognitive activity, and can cause sleep deprivation, and extreme distress. Tinnitus may be present constantly, or it may come and go.

Effects on Young People

Infant and child ear canals are much smaller than those of adults. Therefore, the sound pressure is even greater for them. For example, if the sound is around 90 dB, then it sounds much louder to them. Given that hearing loss develops over a lifetime, it is even more important for you to protect their hearing.

Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss

Consider Ear Protection

“Wearing foam ear plugs or silicone ear plugs doesn’t keep the sound out, but it would reduce it to a safer level,” explains Sarah.

You can still enjoy the music wearing earplugs or other protective gear. Professional musicians, sound and light engineers, dancers, security, and other professionals who work at the show wear them all the time. Consider wearing earplugs for as long as you are being exposed to noise over 80 dB.

Explore the Venue

Make sure to explore your surroundings and find where the speakers are when you arrive at the event. You may be tempted to approach closer to the stage but doing so might put your ears directly in front of the blaring speakers. These speakers can go up to over 110 dB and risk permanently damaging your hearing within seconds. You can still hear the music and enjoy the show from a safe distance.

Limit Alcohol

There is no doubt that many tend to enjoy kicking back at a performance with an alcoholic drink. However, excessive drinking can alter how your body processes sound by harming the auditory cortex. Also, alcohol increases the blood flow to your inner ear and raises your blood pressure, which increases the effects of tinnitus. If you decide to consume alcohol while attending a concert or show, moderate your intake.

Implement Break Times

Implement break times throughout the festival day. Taking a break allows your ears to recover from the noise and reduces your chances of hearing loss. Try adding these breaks to your festival schedule:

  • Step away in between performances, such as visiting the restroom
  • Grab food or drinks outside the stage area
  • Walk around the festival grounds where the music is not too loud

Prefer Outdoors

As nice weather approaches, more performances are held outdoors. If you have the option, choose outdoor live performances over those held in enclosed spaces. Because the sound is less concentrated outside, it will be gentler in your ears.

Stay tuned for part two of UT Health Austin’s survival kit series covering how to stay hydrated for this festival season.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.