Loud music in nightclubs and concert halls poses a real risk to young people’s hearing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has released a new global standard for what is considered a safe listening volume.
Nearly 40% of teenagers and young adults, aged 12 to 35, are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels in places of entertainment.
The WHO has recommended a maximum average sound level of 100 decibels (dB) to prevent hearing damage.
For comparison, the WHO has included a table of “permissible daily noise exposures”, showing examples of sound levels produced by different objects and situations. The recommended daily safe volume level for any sound is underneath 85 dB for up to eight hours.
For example, freeway traffic typically produces a noise level of around 85 dB, which means you can safely be exposed to freeway noise for up to eight hours without hearing protection. A typical hair dryer produces a volume level of around 100 dB.
Live concerts, on the other hand, often produce volume levels of 115 dB. Thunder is around 125 dB.
The organization added that most audio devices, venues and live events do not offer safe listening options. The WHO director for the department of non-communicable diseases said on Wednesday venues should monitor sound levels and designate “quiet zones” to give people’s ears a break.
The new recommendations add to guidelines released 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, the WHO recommends paying attention to the volume of listening devices – around 60% of its maximum volume in a quiet room – and of course wearing properly fitted earplugs or noise canceling headphones when you go to noisy places.