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Tips on Hearing Protection
By Sylvia Thyssen, DanceSafe National Office

The dangers of drugs are well-publicized, and more and more people are aware of the risks of dehydration and heatstroke. But one of the greatest dangers of rave and danceclub culture is prolonged exposure to loud music. Taking responsibility for protecting yourself today will help reduce the risk of hearing damage and loss later in your life. Promoters and club owners also have a responsibility for helping to make their venues safer for patrons. Although sound levels are monitored by police for their potential as a public nuisance, monitoring sound levels inside establishments for the protection of the patrons' hearing is not a priority for public health departments. Following the simple recommendations below will make a big difference for your hearing health!

AVOID dancing next to the speakers. Having a distance of at least 10 feet between you and a speaker is extremely important. As your distance from the speaker decreases, risk of damage increases exponentially. LESS exposure to loud music is better. Taking breaks of 30 minutes or more in a room where sound levels are less than 90 dB is extremely useful in lowering the risk of hearing loss.

EXHAUSTION and high ambient temperature increase the risk of hearing loss. Taking breaks from dancing and drinking adequate water helps protect your ears from metabolic exhaustion that can lead to damage. ASK your doctor about your prescription medications and whether they make your ears more sensitive. Certain medications can increase the chance of damage from exposure to loud music.

CHECK your family history. Hereditary risk can play a role in the chances of developing hearing loss.

OVERALL physical health affects your risk of hearing loss. Decreased blood flow to your muscles leaves you more at risk. Exercising regularly improves your resilience.

SHORT term hearing loss -- like what you experience for a few hours after you get out of an event -- is a risk factor for long-term hearing loss.

No one can stress this one enough: wear earplugs -- wear earplugs -- wear earplugs -- wear earplugs -- WEAR EARPLUGS! Recommended devices for protecting your hearing CUSTOM EARPLUGS (around $150) offer the best protection. They are made from a imprint of your ear canal, which makes them very comfortable to wear. They also decrease all frequencies equally, so the music won't be distorted.

ER EARPLUGS (around $20) reduce decibel levels the same across the frequency levels. Users say they aren't as comfortable as custom plugs, but they are still extremely useful (as well as more affordable).

INDUSTRIAL FOAM EARPLUGS (cheap) decrease high frequency sounds, making speech and music sound muffled. They are less comfortable and they distort sound to an extent; however, they are very useful and should be used when other options aren't available. They are the most commonly available type of earplug, and working with H.E.A.R.many DanceSafe chapters hand them out for free!

COTTON AND TOILET PAPER are of no use in the protection of your hearing.

For Promoters and DJs PROVIDING chill out rooms with quieter music is really important. Chill out rooms allow patrons to take breaks which are an essential way to help prevent hearing loss. INCLUDING a physical barrier between patrons and speakers at 10-20 feet and/or lifting speakers off the ground helps protect patrons from exposure to especially dangerous levels of sound.

LIFTING speakers off the ground. When you put speakers on the ground, you lose 8 decibels of the low frequency sound. DJs often adjust their sound levels to compensate for this loss. Lifting speakers helps in two ways: it prevents patrons from getting too close to speakers, and it prevents this distortion that causes DJs to increase sound levels unnecessarily. DJs should keep a safe levle on the volumn. This helps lower risks of hearing loss, as well as allowing patrons to hear each other talk so they don't have to shout (which increases noise in the club, which causes the DJ to turn the sound up, etc.). These suggestions were adapted from a presentation given by Phil Coffin at the Harm Reduction Conference, Miami, October 2000.

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