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
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
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