NPR’s All Songs Considered recently conducted a survey of their listeners asking, “Are Concerts Too Loud?” Seventy-one percent said most of the live shows they go to are too loud, and they seem to have gotten louder in recent years.
When we asked on WJCT’s Facebook page, “Are indoor concerts in Jacksonville too loud,” people said “nope” and “the louder the better!”
A group of millennials outside Brewsters Roc Bar in Jacksonville love it when groups like Attila play loud.
“I really feel like the loudness of the show is kinda what makes it. It gives the show energy and gets the crowd pumped,” they said.
"I sit right next to the sub-woofers. I never cover my ears, my hair covers my ears," said one. "Why would you want to hear less of the music?”
Twenty-six percent of the All Songs Considered survey respondents say they hate earplugs and won't wear them, period. Fifty-two percent say they wear ear plugs, with 45 percent of those saying they do so, grudgingly.
LISTEN: We asked people outside a Jax club about the loudest concert they've ever been to.
Grant Nielsen, local musician with the band JacksonVegas and a promoter for Jacksonville's The Elbow entertainment district, thinks the increased decibels start with musicians trying to rise to the expectation of an eager audience.
“With every venue a musician plays, the beaten down sound engineer says ‘Okay guys, try to keep a low stage volume,’ but he’s just talking to the walls because they think of themselves as these important bombastic notable personalities that need to be expressive on stage and with intensity comes volume, and that volume is what’s forcing the PA’s to get louder," he said. "Every time that drummer plays a little bit louder, all the other channels on the board have to go up to match.”
Grant says that’s a problem because "these poor kids going to these nightclubs listening to music are going deaf and they’re still in their teens.”
Jacksonville audiologist Rosann Faull agrees that overly loud music damages hearing.
“If the sound is loud enough, regardless of what the sound is, it will be a permanent loss. The nerves are permanently damaged and do not regenerate.”
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, states that ears can tolerate about 90 decibels for about eight hours without serious damage.
One hundred fifteen decibels, (the average level for live concerts) can be painful to the ears and result in Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Dr. Faull has seen hearing damage occur from just one concert.
“Yes, I have; I have a musician, he has ear protection. He forgot ear plugs for one concert and he noticed the change in his hearing. I tested his hearing and there was some noise-induced hearing loss.”
Specially-fitted, high quality ear plugs from an audiologist can cost more than $100. You can find earplugs on Ebay that cost $10 to $30.
Grant Nielsen thinks it might be wise for bars and clubs to push any sort of free ear protection for its patrons. “Maybe say, ‘you’re about to experience something that is loud and we are liable for how loud it’s going to be in these walls. Here you go; here’s a bucket of half-a-cent piece of plastic that’s going to make everything better.’”
You can follow Michelle Corum on Twitter @MCorumonME.
CORRECTION- The audio version of this story and the original web story incorrectly identified OSHA as the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration. It is actually the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.