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Hearing Advice -- Crabby

Crabby's Archive

PC questions Crabby on Dangerous Decibels at Dance Clubs and Raves!

Listened to loud music since I was 13

Concerts - Sound Level Restrictions

To Play or Not To Play

Which Plugs for a Drummer?

Movie Theatre Sound

Aerobic Exercise Classes

Airplanes and Hearing Loss



Car Audio Enthusiast

Ringing Ears

Loud Music

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CrabbyGot a question about hearing damage? Want some personal attention? Crabby's our on-site expert. She'll listen to anyone, but please keep your questions reasonable. She can get temperamental and sometimes we have to calm her down...


Paranoid that my hearing hadn't fully recovered from all of the blockage

Dear Crabby,

I've been playing drums for six years now, and (you'll be pleased to hear), quickly realised that I should wear earplugs during gigging and practise. I'm sure that this has been of a huge benefit, but I have two questions to which I've always wanted the answers. It has been recognised that I have very, very good hearing (with a sound-engineering career in the pipeline), but after a bad case of the flu, and terrible hearing de-generation - to which I didn't seek medical advice - I became a bit paranoid that my hearing hadn't fully recovered from all of the blockage. About two months later I seemed to re-gain my ability to hear very slight acoustic presence, but I am aware of a noise when in a totally silent room, it is increbibly quiet, but is there. I wanted to know if what I'm hearing could just be, I don't know, my heart (sounds strange, but that's what it's like), or should I hear absolutely nothing at all? The other thing is that I'm fed up with the really bad attenuation properties of foam earplugs. After working in a studio recently with proper mnitoring, I realised how much I've been missing out. Unfortunately, as fantastic as the products are that I've seen you recommend, I live in the UK and I'm not entirely sure where to go. I can get the vented Doc Pro Plugs from my local drum shop, but wonder how effective they really are, since they're not proper custom made affairs.

Thanks for your help, JamesT.

I would continue to seek medical attention for your ears being plugged up. The soft t sound that you're hearing is called tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of varies medical conditions. Your physician is the most appropriate professional to inquire about the tinnitus. I'm glad to hear you're proactive using hearing protection! Keep it up. The best quality sounding ear plugs, are the custom "musician" ear plugs. These are custom made by an audiologist. Check the website to see who is partnerd with us in the UK. The UK partner may be able to be of service to you.


PC questions Crabby on Dangerous Decibels at Dance Clubs and Raves!

Dear Crabby,

Two questions that have been bugging me ...

[PC] First, I've heard that deep bass music - i.e. at clubs/raves - is focused around 63 Hz, below the frequency range considered risky.

I've also read some epi research out of France suggesting clubgoers are at much lower risk of hearing loss than those attending rock concerts or listening to PCP (personal cassette recorders, that is). [cite: Meyer-Bisch C. "Epidemiological evaluation of hearing damage related to strongly amplified music (personal cassette players, discotheques, rock concerts)-high-definition audiometric survey on 1364 subjects." Audiology 1996 May-Jun;35(3):121-42].

[Crabby] False. It's not the frequency that damaging, it's the intensity .

[PC] Does all this mean clubs/raves are relatively safe?

[Crabby] No. Any sound above 85 dB, is considered potentially at risk for hearing loss. Raves are typically outdoors; therefore, there are no walls to cause reverberation of sound. This is good, but if the volume is above 85 dB, your hearing is still at risk.

[PC] Or is there other research concluding that the frequency of the music is irrelevant? Most of the research I've found so far is on broadband noise and rock - so it's seemed tough to make a judgment. I'd be grateful if you could give article citations.

[Crabby] I would search the Internet for articles regarding the effects of noise on hearing.

[PC] Second, can the occlusion effect be damaging? That is, if you're listening to low frequency music, and you're wearing a foam industrial plug, does the "trapped" noise cause more harm than the plug reduces? The occlusion effect doesn't case any damage.

[Crabby] What can still occur, with hearing protection, is hearing damage due to bone conduction. If the music is loud enough, the sound will conduct through the body, vibrating your bones, which can also damage hearing.

[PC]Again, citations would be great.

[Crabby]Check out: http://www.health.gov/healthypeople/Document/

Please read survey article on dance clubs and raves "Dangerous Decibels Dancing Until Deaf" by Ed Walsh on HEARNET.com

More DJ's and Ravers are contacting H.E.A.R. with hearing loss and tinnitus concerns.



Listened to loud music since I was 13.

Dear Crabby:

I have listened to loud music since I was 13. I am now in my late 30's. I have now been experiencing a slight hearing loss in the right ear and have swelling behind the ear. I have called my doctor and he wants to do a CATSCAN? Any suggestions? thank you :)

(Very worried)

Dear Friend,

I would follow the recommendations of your doctor. I would also have a hearing evaluation.



Subject: Concerts-Sound Level Restrictions

Dear Crabby,

I think you're doing wonderful work and I'm so glad such a thing exists.

I myself am a musician suffering from hearing damage. I hadn't been playing very long and was just getting going when I attended an unbelievably loud concert. I had my first bout of tinnitus afterward and sensitivity to sound in my right ear. I was in my last week of music school when it happened.

I'd always been diligent about wearing earplugs for practice but for some reason didn't at this concert even though I new it was way too loud. The symptoms seemed to subside, but when I returned home from school they gradually reappeared as I was exposed to loud noise with earplugs. The worst was the last time I rehearsed with this band. That was over a year ago and I have not been able to play since.

I don't have significant hearing loss but what's been affecting me most is Hyperacusis, and well my chronic tinnitus is affected by any ambient noise. The hyperacusis has prevented me from working at any occupation. The whole thing has severely affected my life and been very heartbreaking which I'm sure you can understand.

I think it would be a good idea to talk more about Hyperacusis on your website because I think it is even more debilitating than tinnitus (at least in my case) and would be good incentive for people to protect their hearing. Nobody would want this.

I think is also important to sets that significant damage can happen from just one really loud exposure. I previously understood the need to protect my hearing but at that one concert I was acting a little crazy and I guess I figured one concert couldn't do that much harm. I wasn't even near the stage. It was a really loud show and it was in a bar.

This brings me to the purpose of this E-Mail. Why did it have to be so loud. It happened in a bar in Los Angeles. I'm surprised a health conscious state like California doesn't have some laws in place about volume. Even if you're wearing ear plugs, the most they protect your ears is 29 db. If the concert is 120 dB you're still going to be damaging your ears after a half an hour. And I'm sure the concert I was at was more than 120 dB I think there is one province in Canada that has something like that in place. I want to look into it happening in my province and nationwide as well, although I'm unsure of where to begin. I think it is important for concert venues as well as performers to be involved in addressing this matter. How loud does music have to be to be enjoyed? Anyways, I'm curious to know if there is any movement to this effect happening, and how I might get involved.

Jennifer Cannell

Thanks. And thanks again for all that your doing regarding hearing and

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for sharing your email. Hyperacusisis (over sensitivity to loud sounds) is a very serious problem among musicians and others with noise induced hearing damage. It's difficult for others to understandwhat that person is going through when seemingly normal sounds like running water, traffic and music hurts your ears. It can turn your world up side down.

As you may know, the maximum exposure time for unprotected ears per day is 8 hours at 90 dB according to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. For every 5 dB increase in volume, the maximum exposure time is cut in half.
95 dB - 4 hours
100 dB - 2 hours
110 dB - 30 minutes
120 dB 7.5 minutes
Many hearing professionals believe that these permissible levels are still too high for hearing safety.

In the US Noise Abatement Laws are in place for nuisance complaints such as airport noise, etc. At the Federal level, the funding to enforce the complaints was cut in the 1980's. Each state has their own laws and funding policies which vary from State to State. By contacting your local representative you can find out more about the noise abatement laws for your city or province.

Noise Abatement is difficult to enforce, especially if you are paying to go into an establishment to hear loud music. The police respond to loud noise complaints if neighbors have made a complaint in the area or, it is past curfew. You may talk to the owner of the club, the sound engineer or, the band and ask them to play at lower levels. Find out if they utilize room acoustics. Let them know that they are losing more people by playing too loudly and making it uncomfortable for the rest of the audience to enjoy the music. EXCESSIVE NOISE LEVEL CAN DAMAGE HEARING!!!

It would be great if everyone wouldn't play so loud. But, that is something that may be out of your control. So the next best thing is to protect yourself to avoid hearing damage. Or, avoid those loud clubs all together and go to venues that play at safer sound levels.

One way you can help H.E.A.R. get our message to others is to let them know about our web site (www.hearnet.com). Thank you for sharing and for your support of H.E.A.R. Check out www.nonoise.org for info on the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse for more ideas on how to fight noise pollution.


Dear Crabby,

On Saturday, I decided to bring my Radio Shack catalog no. 33-2055 digital sound level meter with me for a typical evening of rock'n'roll. This is normally used with the "default" settings upon power-up: C-weighting, fast response, average levels.

It was not surprising to find readings of 112dB in and immediately around the "stage" area while the Sonny Kenn Band was playing at the Cove, a nice bar in Hazlet NJ. (It was surprising to my good friend George, who said, "this can't possibly be accurate!"). What *was* surprising was the SPLs measured in my car (Volvo 850 with leather interior), with and without music blasting. Typical driving, with windows closed: 82dB. Add a Bad Company tape, at comfortable levels: 86dB! Turn it up a little more: 90-92dB! Imagine, I get at least an hour of such exposure every day. No wonder I have low-grade tinnitus.

And there's more: Being that I'm not a morning person, but must (for now) deal with a day job, the *most important* speakers in my place is the nasty little pair of Radio Shack "Minimus-7-Pro" in my bathroom. (How *else* could I possibly ever get motivated and ready for work every morning?) This morning I measured a good 90dB with the shower running and King's X blasting. <sigh> And of course, I have *at least* one pair of speakers in< *every* room in my place! Yes, the kitchen and the bedrooms included! The morning is, by necessity, a *very loud* time in my place.

The bottom line is that rock'n'roll is a way of life, but it definitely pays to always be conscious of the ambient levels, and not be "abusive." As with anything, always consider the benefits as well as the risks, and make balanced decisions accordingly.

Back to the Saturday evening: My friends are all completely aware that I wear hearing protection at all times while the band plays. I do believe that I was the *only* person in the entire place wearing ear plugs. (I didn't notice the bartenders or bouncers wearing any.) I'll never know how all these people can stand the actual physical pain at 112dB, and still have fun. <sigh> One thing is for sure: The dB meter, and the levels indicated, caught a lot of attention. Maybe I should keep it in my car along with all the earplugs. :-)

Hope you found this very interesting. Now I gotta' [to quote a line from one of the SKB's songs] "get back to work!"

Peace, Love, Rock'N'Roll,

-- K

Dear K,

Thank you for sharing with us. You know we are too loud. If more people would think about their most important musical instrument maybe they would realize that it's their ears!- Later Crabby

Subject: To Play or Not to Play

Dear Sir or Madame Crabby,

I have tinnitus and have seen doctors and specialists and it is probably from loud music.

I have given my heart, soul, and energy into rock for a long time now and was on the verge of creating a great project. Do musicians earplugs really prevent all of the possible damage to the ears due to loud music? Even the pro molders that I spoke to seem to try to go around the answer. Even though I have given my all to rock, I would give it all up to prevent the tinnitus from worsening. Is the best advice just to quit playing hard rock altogether?


Dear Shannon

The most effective method to prevent hearing loss due to loud music is to obstain from it. However, that is not a realistic approach. Ear plugs help tremendously to reduce the loudness. Earplugs do not prevent the possible onset of hearing loss, but the earplugs have the potential to greatly reduce the amount of damage.


Subject: Which Plugs for a Drummer?

Dear Crabby, Hi there,

I'm a 35 year old drummer. My hearing has been recently tested and I have a borderline slight loss at 3.5k. I've been using foam (30db) plugs most of the time but not when I was a teen. I notice that if I listen to even medium loud music (90-95db) now for more that 15 minutes I have< ringing that lasts for 30-60 minutes afterwards . Is this normal?

Also, the foam plugs I use when playing drums suck, so I'd like to finally get some linear sound suppression plugs. Which would be best for me for when I play the drums?

thanks in advance


Dear Mike

I recommend that you inquire about the Musician Earplugs, with the maximum attenuation, from your audiologist. This will help to protect your hearing as well as allow you to hear adequately while playing the drums.

The ringing, tinnitus, is very subjective from one person to the next. Tinnitus suggests that you're irritating the ears. Therefore, hearing protection is very important to reduce the noise level so that tinnitus will less likely occur. If used properly, foam plugs provide the maximum protection.


Subject: Movie Theatre Sound

Dear Crabby:

I wondered if you had any data on the db's in movie theaters. The movies I have seen lately hurt my ears. I have tried over the counter earplugs, but find them uncomfortable. My girl friend uses the head sets that people use at rifle ranges and finds them not good enough. When I ask the management of these theaters to turn down the sound they ignore me. I would like to know what you charge for your custom ear plugs. I recently had my hearing tested and there has been some damage. I am also interested in whether you have any data on tv volume. Especially the sound boosts that come during commercials.

Thank you in advance.


Dear Sean:

I do not know what the sound level is in movie theaters, but I do know sound level varies tremendously. You could ask the manager what the level is, or if the theater has a maximum level. If management does not know, you could bring a sound level meter into the theater and measure the sound level.

I would consult with an audiologist as to which hearing protection is most suitable for you needs. TV commercials are definitely louder than the program--usually around 10 dB Why? I do not know. (Probably to draw your attention to the ad, since that's what advertisements are for.--ed.)


Subject: Aerobic Exercise Classes

Dear Crabby,

I am an exercise instructor looking for information on safe music volume levels during aerobic classes. I read some of the info on rock concerts and loud music, but am curious as to the risk an exerciser takes by attending classes on a regular basis. The average person in our club probably exercises 3-5 times a week and attends classes that are 45 minutes to 1 hour long. Does the frequency they attend and/or the length of the class affect the safe decibel levels they are able to tolerate?? For example, is 100 decibels harmful for 2 hours but okay for 1 hour?? (Or is the damage done just half as much?).

I would appreciate any information you could send me on this subject so we can maintain a safe, yet motivating, atmosphere for our health conscious members.

Thank you,


Dear Michele,

The OHSA standard for noise/music states that any sounds above 90 dB is considered damaging to hearing. Many audiologists believe that noise above 85 dB is potentially damaging. The longer the exposure, the greater chance of possibly acquiring a hearing loss over time. I recommend earplugs for those exposed to this type of environment on a regular basis. I attend aerobics faithfully and use my plugs faithfully. You could purchase an inexpensive sound level meter from Radio Shack and measure the noise level. Then you could set the volume at a non-damaging level.


Subject: Airplanes and Hearing Loss

Dear Crabby


I think I've read somewhere that airplanes had something to do with hearing loss or tinnitus. This is a vague memory, so it might be wrong. I'm flying to Europe next week, so I'd like to know if my information is right. If so,what precautions would you recommend? Thanks in advance.



Dear Pablo,

Yes, being in a plane, on a regular basis, such as a pilot, could experience hearing loss over time. Just taking one flight should not be detrimental to your hearing. However, if you're not comfortable with that, please wear ear plugs during the flight.


Subject: Sleep

Dear Crabby,

I would like to know if there are any products out there that can block noise entirely. I sleep days and wake up to noises frequently. I would appreciate a response. Thank You.


Dear Rip,

There is nothing that will completely block out all noise. Custom ear plugs (for sleeping) should be available from your local audiologist.I think this will greatly improve you situation for a good sound sleep!


Subject: Tinnitus

Dear Crabby,

I have ringing in my ears from going to a concert, (sorry, I didn't wear ear plugs). I have had the ringing for about a day after the concert. It's not loud, but it is noticeably there. It's mainly in my left ear, (the ear closest to the speaker). How long does this usually last? When should I start worrying? Usually after a concert my ears will ring for only a couple hours after the show. Just some background on me: I am 23 years old, I go to a couple shows a year, this is my first in almost a year. I sporadically wear ear plugs when I go to shows. I usually wear them during the opening bands music in between bands, but always take them out for the band I came to see.

Thanks, Brian

Dear Brian,

If the tinnitus does not go away, decrease, or increases, I recommend you seek otologic consultation. It may take longer this time for the tinnitus to subside, but then, it may not. Therefore, the medical attention is warranted.


Dear Crabby,

Is there a cure for this? I have had this ringing in my ears for nearly 1 year. Is there anything that can be done?

Tinnitus Trouble

Dear Troubled,

There is no cure, but there are treatments that may control the tinnitus for you. It is also very important to wear hearing protection when exposed to loud decibel levels. Lowering stress levels, healthy lifestyle and avoidance of loud noise can help contribute to reducing your tinnitus symptoms. If tinnitus persists see your audiologist or ear doctor, or contact the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) at (503) 248-9965 for more information. Check out these links for more info on the subject.


Subject: Car Audio Enthusiast


I'm involved in a running battle with my 16 year old son about the stereo system in his car -- highly amplified with huge subwoofers (boom car??). He bought the system with his own, earned money. I took the subwoofers out -- the response to that was awesome -- I told him that once I (we) had the opportunity to look over some studies regarding the potential for permanent hearing damage then we (I) would decide whether he could put the system back together again.

If you could provide us with any material or your findings as to whether or not systems like this can ever be safely used, I would appreciate it. Obviously, I have no legitimate opinion as to the safety of the system, so some expert input would help. My son is also more likely to listen to you than to me. I think that systems like my son's are major nuisances (but my father thought the exhaust system on my car was idiotic too), however, if there is a way to have the system with no risk to his hearing, I'll let him put it back together.

Thanks for your help,

Ron Shugar

Dear Ron,

This is a tough one--regarding teenagers and music...

Sound above 90 dB is considered potentially damaging to one's hearing. You may want to purchase an inexpensive sound level meter from Radio Shack. This instrument will accurately read the loudness level. This way, you'll be able to know what volume is too loud.



Dear Crabby

I am a car audio enthusiast the SPL (sound pressure level) of my specific vehicle is 148.6db. That reading is produced at 60Hz. I have friends whose car stereo systems range from 140.8db to 156.9db at various Hz levels between 45 and 90hz. My question is, Is there any truth to the story that most hearing damage caused by high hertz levels above 5000hz and the damage incurred from low level tones is minor if at all noticeable? I have personal experienced a temporary dulling of hearing that fades within 30 minutes usually, as if my ears just adjusted to deal with high SPL and then adjusted back when it wasn't loud any more. Much like walking inside on a bright day and it takes a minute to adjust your eyes to the lower light intensity. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


PS Hearing protection is required for use at competitions.

Dear Albert,

You and your friends are putting your ears at great risk!! It's the intensity of the sound not necessarily the frequency that is damaging. Levels of 140 dB is equivalent to airplanes taking off! Why subject your ears to that insane level??

You are very fortunate that your hearing sensitivity returns to "normal" in 30 minutes. I would not be surprised if this changes to a permanent hearing loss over time, with that level of exposure. Turn it down!!


Dear Crabby,

I have always enjoyed to not only listening to music but feeling the bass of my music. Does listening to the lowest frequencies of bass (20-60 Hz) cause much hearing damage? If so, how long will it take to cause damage?

Also, what frequencies will this hearing loss cause? Can bass only damage your low-frequency hearing, or does it damage higher-frequency hearing too? I thank you sincerely for your time and attention.


Dear Jason,

Noise/music, of any frequency, when loud enough, is damaging to your hearing. Sound levels above 90 dB are considered damaging and warrant hearing protection.

Loud sounds damage your high frequency hearing first. Depending on the exposure and duration of the sound, the hearing loss can progress to the mid frequencies.

There is a time limit as to when hearing loss will occur due to noise. It can happen with the first loud exposure, or it can develop gradually over time. The loss is usually permanent as well.


Subject: Ringing Ears

Dear Crabby,

I'm a drummer (yikes) who has spent many years in high volume situations, and although I don't seem to have suffered noticeable hearing loss, I've been very concerned about the loud(er) ringing in my ears after a gig.

I've just invested in a pair of custom molded earplugs that seem to compare to ER-25's (I live in South Africa and only managed to locate one audiologist dealing with hearing protection as opposed to hearing reinforcement), and are called Noise-clippers. Anyway, the point is I still experience a louder ringing post gig, if perhaps less than before. Is this normal, andwhat is the actual cause of this ringing, and if I'm experiencing this am I putting my hearing at risk? Is this ringing a mild form of tinnitus?

a drummer (yikes)

Dear Yikes,

Ringing is tinnitus. You are irritating your ears and increasing the likelihood of acquiring hearing loss around loud noise with tinnitus being a side effect of this noise exposure. Wear hearing protection when around loud noise!


Subject: Loud Music

hello, I am in a band and after we play I get that loud screeching in my ears. I have also been to the doctor many times saying that I think I have an ear infection and they say its kind of pink in there and they give me medicine...and sometime they say its probably ear wax buildup because you have lots of it. I am scared because my ears bother me alit, but this happens a lot and before I was in the band. I think it started when I was in 7th grade. I am in 10th grade now, because I remember sticking a q-tip too far in my ear and not being able to hear in my left ear for like a month...but then it just came back....now do you think now that I am exposed to loud music that my hearing is getting messed up, because of that damage with the q-tip? I need to get ear plugs too, what kind should I Gen. want to get pre-made ones, what decibel should I get? please write back soon! its really important.


Dear loud

Did you have your ears evaluated by an ear doctor or regular doctor? You should consult with a ear doctor. They will be able to tell you if you have any damage to your ear drum, etc. I recommend that you be fit with custom musicians' ear plugs by an audiologist or try ER20 ready fit ear plugs. They are pre made and reduce the decibel by 12 dB. Foam plugs are good also protection but, will block out the high frequencies more.


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