WHO Issues New Guidance For Safe Listening Volume At Live Concerts

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

March 3, 2022

Photo: AFP

Loud music at nightclubs and concert halls poses a genuine risk to young people's hearing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which issued a new global standard for what is considered a safe listening volume.

Nearly 40 percent of teenagers and young adults, ages 12 - 35 years old, are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels in entertainment venues.

WHO recommended a maximum average sound level of 100 decibels (dB) to prevent hearing damage.

For comparison's sake, WHO included a chart of 'Permissible daily noise exposures,' depicting examples of levels of sound produced by different objects and situations. The daily recommended safe volume level of any sound is below 85 dB for a maximum duration of eight hours.

For example, highway traffic usually produces a noise level of around 85 dB, meaning you could safely be exposed to highway noise for eight hours without hearing protection. A typical hair drier produces a volume level of about 100 dB.

Live concerts, on the other hand, often produce volume levels of 115 dB. Thunder is about 125 dB.

The organization added that most audio devices, venues and live events do not provide safe listening options. WHO director for the department of noncommunicable diseases said Wednesday that venues should monitor sound levels and designate 'quiet zones' to give people's ears a break.

The new recommendations are in addition to guidelines issue in 2019 that outlined how individuals can limit hearing damage from prolonged exposure to loud music on smartphones and audio players.

To protect your hearing, WHO recommends being mindful of volumes on listening devices — about 60 percent of its maximum volume in a quiet room — and of course wearing well-fitting earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when frequenting noisy places.

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