How You Should Really Hear Those Summer Concerts

Summer is prime time for music festivals and concerts. In 2015, teens and young adults attending festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW), Warped Tour, Voodoo, Ultra and Coachella risk permanently damaging their hearing by not wearing hearing protection. It’s not “cool” to wear earplugs right?


Whether you’re a fan of rock, country, hip-hop, techno or electronic, music concerts on average are between 95dB to 112dB loud. According to the World Health Organization, personal listening devices can play as high as 136dB with the average user setting falling between 75 and 105 dB. 

  • The level at which sustained exposure can result in hearing loss is 90-95dB. 
  • The level at which pain begins is 125dB.
  • The level at which short-term exposure can result in hearing loss is 140dB. 

That ringing sensation you experience post-concert, the one that significantly impairs your hearing for hours to days and can leave you with a headache, that’s proof that you’ve just damaged your hearing.

Sure you don’t want those earplugs yet? 

Most concerts last between two to four hours, and music festivals can last all day, and often run three to four days. Prolonged exposure to certain levels of sound increases your chances of hearing loss, and in short, the more music you listen to unprotected the more damage your ears incur. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) safe duration standards for noise exposure are as follows:

  • Limit four hours, 95dB
  • Limit two hours, 100dB
  • Limit one hour, 105dB
  • Limit 30 minutes (if near speakers), 110dB 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) safe listening standards are even more rigid.

  • Limit to one hour, 95dB
  • Limit to 15 minutes, 100dB
  • Limit to four minutes, 105 dB
  • Limit to one minute 29 seconds, 110dB

So let’s say one night you went to renowned electro-house musician Steve Aoki’s concert. You skipped the opening act and arrived at the small, echo-infused venue at about 9 o’clock. There are 300 people packed in the room, three speakers standing about six feet tall on either side of the stage, and oh yes, you landed those awesome, once-in-a-lifetime right in front of the stage, standing-on-the-floor tickets. 

You leave at midnight, laughing with friends about the concert, ears ringing loudly and smiles on your faces. The ringing lasts for three hours. You go home, fall asleep and are completely unaware that you’ve damaged your hearing. Depending on the number of concerts you attend each year, the cumulative damage could be slight or extreme. 

What if you went to a three-day music festival? 

In 2012, Rolling Stone said that according to the Indio, CA police department, approximately 80,000-85,000 people attended each day of the three-day Coachella festival. According to Coachella producer Goldenvoice, in 2014 there were approximately 90,000 people who purchased three-day ticket passes, 30 different musical acts each day, three venues to watch, and doors opened at 11 a.m. with the last act on stage between 11:45 p.m. and midnight. In 2014, Coachella held two weekends of three-day festivals and clocked 675,000 total people clicking through the entrance. 

That’s 675,000 who potentially caused serious permanent damage to their hearing in only three days. 

Music is wonderful, but at the levels teens and young adults currently experience it, they risk serious damage to their hearing.

As stated in a recent article by CBS News, the United Nations agency estimated one billion young people across worldwide are “potentially at risk for hearing loss due to ‘unsafe listening practices.’” The “Make Listening Safe” report found that nearly 50 percent of teenagers and young adults are exposed to music devices playing at unsafe volumes and prolonged periods of time. The report also found that between 1990 and 2005, the use of headphones to listen to music increased by 75 percent. 

Starkey Hearing Technologies offers a wide variety of custom earplugs that are aesthetically pleasing, provide outstanding noise protection and give users incredible musical enjoyment. Earplugs don’t have to be embarrassing or weird, and if MTV is on board with turning the volume down, maybe you should be too. 

By Sarah Bricker