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How Loud Is Too Loud?

How Loud Is Too Loud?

We have all enjoyed concerts and shows and other events where the music was awesome. The professional sound and atmosphere of a great music show is unforgettable, and many music and concert lovers are undoubtedly able to enjoy the sound at these kind of events, but there is potentially a risk involved if the sound is too loud and patrons are exposed to high level volumes for too long of a period of time.  This is primarily a concern for music lovers who attend regularly and certainly for folks like us who work in the entertainment industry on a daily or weekly basis.

Hearing Loss from Loud Music

Usually, hearing loss occurs over time due to years of subtle pressure but lasting effects can be felt even from one incident. I personally had severe hearing loss for about 2 days in my left ear (high frequencies) from shooting guns without hearing protection several years ago at a range. The same principle can apply to music events and other atmospheres or environments where the sound is loud enough to damage the tiny hairs of our inner ears. This is just an example of why it is important to be mindful of the loudness of the environments we place ourselves, and the importance of the question, “How loud is too loud?

Understanding Decibels

It’s interesting to consider that even the U.S. Military has a department entirely dedicated to hearing loss and protection, and making sure our country’s soldiers are protected from hearing damage! No wonder considering that a gunshot is between 140 and 160 decibels (dB), which explains the effects of my one unprotected day of shooting.  I learned in college that threshold of pain is 118 dB, this is where real and prolonged damage begins to occur.  Most rock concerts run at 110 dB minimum and almost every major band we work with contractually obligates the promoter who hired them to provide a sound system capable of producing 120dB at mix position, which is as much as 100 feet from the stage.  Since sound dissipates, in a modern line array sound system, at 3dB every doubling in distance from the speakers, a concert where the sound engineer is mixing the show at a comfortable, but intense, 110dB at mix position, can be much louder at the front row.  This is why we sound companies curve our line arrays at the bottom of the array and keep them flatter toward the top. It provides the volume to push to the back of the venue while keeping things under control up close to the stage.


OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has determined that 85 decibels is a safe volume for listening to music for up to 8 hours.  Their guideline is that for every 5 more decibels above that threshold, cut the amount of time of safe listening in HALF!  This means that every time you see a concert at Sleep Train Amphitheater, OSHA recommends you don’t sit there for more than 15 minutes.  Sheesh.  Who is going to do that?

That is important to remember. No one wants hearing loss or to risk not being able to listen to the things you love as you get older. Your favorite song, the sound of a river running, or the birds chirping in the spring air, all of these lovely sounds can potentially be lost after enough extreme exposure to high volumes.

Here is a chart to help you determine how loud sounds are in decibels. It’s something to keep inaudio visual production company mind when listening to music or even while on an airplane. It’s important to wear proper hearing protection even when performing activities like mowing the grass. The best way is to be safe when listening to music. Don’t listen to your earbuds too loud (or for too long), and wear hearing protection when doing activities like shooting firearms or going to an airshow.

As an audio visual production company, Tolar AVL wants you to be able to enjoy your hearing for the rest of your life. As such we direct our techs that we want the show to be as quiet as possible as long as each and every person can hear each and every word that is spoken or sung.

If you have a production that is going to require professional audio, video services, or event lighting anywhere in California or the surrounding states, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us –we’d be thrilled to help you however we can! You can call us today at 530-342-8860.

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