The holiday season is here and along with lights strung up on all the homes up and down the block to light up these shorter days, it’s a great time to visit the theater to experience the latest blockbuster or feel-good movie for the holidays. There really is no comparable way to experience a movie but in the theater. It’s not only the large screen, cushy seating, red carpets, buttered popcorn, and cutting-edge surround sound. It’s a feeling of being together with others – it can be a collective experience as you all discover the latest blockbuster for the first time together.
However, it is important to consider your hearing health the next time you visit the movies. Audio technology continues to evolve to give you an experience as if you are right in the middle of the experience on screen—and this can be rather loud. The recommended level for noise is 85 decibels (dBA) which is the unit used to measure volume. However, many theaters choose to boost the decibel well past safe limits to give moviegoers the experience of truly being in the saga on screen. This can have long lasting and disastrous effects for your ears.
While the most common cause of hearing loss is caused by changes to your ears as we age, hearing loss can occur at any age. The most common cause of hearing loss in younger individuals is noise induced, for those who are exposed at nightclubs, sporting events, concerts, through headphones and even at the movies. The safe threshold for listening ends at sounds 85 dBA and higher. The ears can withstand decibels up to 85 dBA for 8 hours of consistent exposure. After this point the vibrations can become severe enough to damage the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear. These cells are the sole delivery system of audio information from the ears to the brain and when damaged or destroyed can leave in its wake permanent hearing loss.
Anything over 85 dBA for eight hours or more can start to cause hearing damage. However, as the decibels rise, the time it takes for damage to occur, becomes significantly shorter. For every three increments in decibels the time for damage to occur is cut in half. At 88 dBA it takes 4 hours and at 95 dBA it can take around an hour! By the time sounds reach 105 dBA it can take less than 15 minutes for damage to occur. While the average level of sound may hover around 85 dBA, for movies with extended action scenes, can easily raise the decibel levels into danger zones, long enough for you and everyone else in the theater to suffer from hearing damage.
Have you ever left the movie theater with any pain in your ears, or a feeling of ringing or buzzing? This is the sound of tinnitus and signals that the movies were certainly loud enough to damage your hearing. It’s important to come prepared, next time you come to the movies. Different movie theaters will play at different volumes, sometimes at the whim of management. You can measure the volume of the next movie you attend via a free downloadable decibel meter available for free on most smartphones. If the decibel level indicates danger to your ears, you have several options.
One is to speak to the manager and let them know that they are putting their patron’s hearing at risk. If enough people advocate, it can make a big difference. However, if confrontation is not your thing, you can opt to try a different theater which plays films at safer levels. You can also come prepared with hearing protection. Most foam earplugs or over the earmuffs, can limit decibels levels from 15- 33 dBA depending on the model.
Hearing loss is a permanent condition. It’s important to do what we can to prevent it, but if we feel that damage has already occurred, it’s important to be proactive and address it by scheduling a hearing test with one of our caring and expert audiologists and hearing care specialists. Untreated hearing loss can contribute to strains in communication, cognitive decline, a higher risk of falls and more. This holiday season, invest in a future with healthy hearing. Schedule a hearing exam with us today!