Baylor College of Medicine

Take ear plugs to your next concert

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Houston, TX -

A night out to see your favorite musician is sure to make lasting memories, but could it also leave you with long-term hearing loss? Experts at Baylor College of Medicine say that loud music at concerts can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss if you don’t take proper precaution.

“Loud noise exposure can definitely cause hearing loss,” said Dr. Alex Sweeney, assistant professor and Dorothy L. McGee Endowed Chair of Otolaryngology at Baylor. “In some cases, the loss is only temporary, but we do see cases in which it is permanent.”

Otolaryngologists refer to temporary hearing loss as a temporary threshold shift, a change a change in auditory thresholds that recovers over time. Recovery time is typically dependent on the intensity and duration of the loud sounds.

Tinnitus, better described as ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears and muffled hearing all can be signs of hearing loss. However, Dr. Lauren Placke, an audiologist in the department of Otolaryngology at Baylor, said that muffled hearing does not always indicate permanent hearing loss. If a temporary threshold shift has occurred after loud noise exposure, the hearing may recover, she said.

In addition to the acoustics of a concert, where you sit plays a role in your potential hearing damage. “The closer you are to a sound source, the more sound energy you're likely getting. Seats closest to the sound source should be avoided, if possible. If it's not possible to avoid these seats, bring earplugs to protect yourself,” Placke said.

The acoustics and reverberation of the sound and music also can be vastly different between venues. Specifically, in an enclosed space, the sound waves reverberate off of the hard surfaces, which may result in prolonged exposure to potentially damaging noise. So if you plan on attending any concerts this year at the Houston Rodeo, be sure to take proper precaution.

Hearing protection such as earplugs is recommended for those who plan on attending any concerts. Earplugs can help to mitigate the effects of loud noise exposure. If you know that you're going to be in a noisy environment, it can be a smart move to have some earplugs handy, she said.

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