Whether you are trying to book a band for a venue, or are going to a concert, you may be wondering how noisy a live band can be. In order to understand a band’s apparent loudness, we need to be able to quantify it with a thing called a decibel.
What is a decibel, and how does it measure sound?
A decibel is a unit of measurement of the intensity of sound. The decibel scale starts at 0 dB and shoots up with the loudest sound ever with the launch of the Saturn V rocket at a mammoth 204 dB. A typical conversation is around 60 dB, and a jet engine can be as loud as 120dB.
I don’t scream my conversation – how can it be half the loudness of a jet engine?
Good eye! The decibel scale functions much like the Richter scale – rather than linear it is logarithmic. This means that 20 dB isn’t twice as loud as 10 dB, but rather 10 times. Following this scale results in a jet engine being not twice as loud as a conversation, but actually a million!
That adds up fast, at what point should I start worrying?
Technically an exposure of 85 decibels at 8 hours can cause hearing damage – with the typical lawn mower at around 90 dB. Raising up to 140 dB can actually cause immediate damage – usually, this is temporary, but in rare circumstances can be permanent.
How exactly does it damage the ears?
Noise-induced hearing loss comes from powerful sound waves going through the ear canal and vibrating the inner ear. In this inner ear is an elastic piece wrapped around 3 small bones, which in turn is covered in an extremely fine hair. Once this hair is damaged, they don’t grow back.
Alright, so how many decibels is a live band?
Like anything else, there is a lot of variation – with the loudest being in the 100 dB to 120 dB range. Long exposure at this level can cause hearing damage and tinnitus – a condition that can cause a constant ringing in your ears.
Woah! What should I do to prevent this ear damage?
According to Long Island live band and dj entertainment professional, Fiddlers Dream Music, the best course of action to prevent ear damage is to take preliminary measures and wear a pair of earplugs to the concert. Earplugs reduce the amount of decibel volume entering your ear by blocking the canal and protecting the fragile parts inside.
Should I know anything about earplugs?
There’s actually a lot more to earplugs than you would originally imagine. Roughly, the three types of earplugs out there are foam, flange, and moldable. Of these, I find the foam the most comfortable, with moldable having the most noise blocking effects.
Is there anything else I could do to prevent ear damage at a concert?
Since the human body does remarkable well at healing itself, I would recommend taking a few minutes during the concert to let them heal. Ideally, you want to get away from the speakers for 10 minutes for every hour near them.
I already have a ringing noise in my ears, how do I stop it?
Only time can get rid of tinnitus – if it is annoying you try masking it with a faint white noise sound in the background. Make sure you don’t do anything to make the tinnitus worse like other loud noises – this will irritate an already exasperated inner ear.
Does anything make tinnitus worse?
Other than additional loud noises, the ringing will increase with more blood flow to the ear. Substance that increase blood pressure such as alcohol and caffeine should be avoided, along with wearing any headphones.
How long can this ringing last?
Thankfully most symptoms of tinnitus from concerts go away within 16 to 48 hours. However, there are some instances of ringing going on for a week or two. Thankfully, if you have this condition it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going deaf.
When should I see a doctor?
I would recommend if the ringing persists for more than a week you go get it checked out. You should do this especially if the ringing comes with other symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and additional hearing loss.
Wait, is there a way for the bands themselves to limit their sound output?
Yes actually. Some reception halls and venues put a ceiling on the level of noise. In this case there is a device called a sound limiter that is typically set at 95 dB – anything over this and the power cuts out to the musical equipment.
Is there anything else I should know?
Concerts can be an exhilarating experience – with a decibel rating typically around 110 this causes your heart to naturally beat faster and get you more excited. Just make sure you take the necessary precautions to avoid any potential ear damage.