How to protect your hearing both at concerts and at home: Emily Wodmansey

Over the coming months, many of us will be going to concerts, gigs and festivals, and most of us will have experienced the ringing in the ears that comes after such an event.We all know that noise can affect or damage our hearing but how loud is too loud?

What most people don’t realise is that it isn’t the exposure per se that causes the problem, but the level of sound that we listen to over a given period.

To give us some reference points (we are working in decibels here): birdsong is 44dB, conversational speech is 65 dB, a food blender is 88 dB and thunder is 120 dB.

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Decibels are logarithmic so doubling the decibel doesn’t double the sound level. An increase of 10 dB gives the perception of a doubled sound level.

Emily Woodmansey, Audiologist and MD of The Hearing SuiteEmily Woodmansey, Audiologist and MD of The Hearing Suite
Emily Woodmansey, Audiologist and MD of The Hearing Suite

So then how long can we safely listen to different levels of sound? As a guide, at 85 dB we have 8 hours of safe listening in a 24-hour window. At 95 dB we have one hour of safe listening in a 24-hour window.

At 105 dB we have 7 minutes and 30 seconds of safe listening in a 24-hour window.

At 115 dB we have 15 seconds of safe listening in a 24-hour window. This is because an increase of 3dB doubles the sound intensity.

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I am an audiologist and also the Managing Director of The Hearing Suite, which I set up five years ago to help self-funded patients who want a quality bespoke service get their hearing back on track.

Early in my career, I worked with several independent hearing clinics and I wanted to replicate the high standards I saw in them for the people local to where I live so I set up my own clinic in Harrogate and Ilkley then Wykeham.

I work with a team of audiologists who see people with different degrees of hearing loss and we do everything we can to get them hearing well again.

When I’m asked about how to get an idea of the safe listening levels, I suggest that clients use a measuring tool.

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In industry, the measurements should be taken using a piece of equipment called a sound level meter.

In your personal life, some apps do something similar and will give you an indication of the sound levels around you.

From there you can use the safe exposure time calculator on a website like ACS to see whether or not you should be wearing ear protection.

If you find the level is too high, there are several ways you can protect your hearing. Firstly and simply, reduce the time you are exposed to high noise levels.

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Move further away from any source of loud noise and wear hearing protection.

You can turn the volume down on personal music devices and use sound-excluding headphones or earbuds.

You can avoid using too many noisy appliances at the same time at home and check the dB rating when purchasing new products.

Hearing loss can lead to reduced communication, social withdrawal and loneliness but it can be preventable.

And if you have been affected by it, get in touch with a professional as soon as possible.

By Emily Wodmansey, Audiologist & Managing Director of The

Hearing Suite.

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