Should you be wearing earplugs to concerts?

Photo credit: Wendy Wei

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Should you be wearing earplugs to concerts? That’s the question posed by writer Maggie O’Neill and the answer from both her and me is an unequivocal, “yes!”

O’Neill cites a number of experts who recommend that those attending outdoor concerts this summer should use some form of hearing protection. Loud music damages the ear, causing noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (a sensitivity to loud noise that doesn’t bother others). Any temporary symptoms after loud noise exposure, such as a muffling of hearing or ringing in the ears that is better or gone by the next morning, indicates that permanent auditory damage has occurred. Over time, with repeated noise exposures, the symptoms may become permanent.

Prevention of disease is always better than treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that is 100% preventable. To protect their ears, I advise people carry earplugs with them in a pocket or purse. For mature audiences, I sometimes say that the best form of hearing protection is like the best form of birth control: I can’t tell you what that is for you, but it should always be available when needed. That usually gets a laugh!

For those concerned that hearing protection may distort the sound of the music and interfere with their enjoyment of the concert, there are relatively inexpensive earplugs with flatter frequency band noise reduction that reduce the sound reaching the eardrum without too much distortion. A Google search of “earplugs that reduce sound without distortion” will yield many options.

Avoid loud noise, leave the noisy environment or use hearing protection, and your ears will last your whole life. If it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.

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