The music festival season is upon us and there is lots to look forward to this summer. From the dance-themed Creamfields festival to Ozzy Osbourne headlining Download, there’s a festival for everyone this summer. However, the sheer length of some music festivals — each weekend of Glastonbury runs three days with 10-plus hours of music a day - means that you may return home on Monday morning with more than you bargained for.
A recent study in Holland looked at the hearing of 51 people at a festival. They monitored some who wore earplugs and some who didn’t wear earplugs. Average sound levels at the festival were 100dB (not too bad for a music festival) but even then, those who wore ear protection were five times less likely to suffer hearing loss after the show. They also helped greatly with tinnitus - a tiny 12 percent of earplug wearers complained of tinnitus, compared with 40 percent of those who didn’t use protection.
There’s a limit to your ears
According to research, 85 decibels is the limit for hearing loss to occur, so people shouldn't be exposed to that for more than four to eight hours. And if you add three more decibels, you should half your exposure time. That means you should only listen to a concert at 110dbs for an hour and a half before you hearing becomes damaged. That’s the length of only two festival sets! At this high noise level, small hair sensors in your ear canal get damaged. Amphibians and birds can grow these sensors back but not humans. Once these hairs are gone, they are gone forever.
But despair not! You don’t have to sit in a darkened room all summer, worrying about those tiny hairs in your ear. There’s nothing better than packing your tent and hitting those fields with your mates. But make sure you read our top five tips for protecting your ears this summer.
Top tips for protecting your ears this festival season
Plug in, Baby
Wearing earplugs is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself. Fronting a campaign by the charity Action on Hearing loss, even Coldplay’s Chris Martin has been asking festival goers to wear earplugs and protect their hearing:
"Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don't think about until there's a problem," he recently remarked. "I've had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn't got any worse. But I wish I'd thought about it earlier.
The front man has had hearing loss since the age of 25. His words serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us.
And you don’t have to worry about earplugs affecting your enjoyment of the music. There are many different types of earplugs, some of which block noise on a flatter sound profile, reducing each frequency evenly. Earplugs can be bought commercially and online. For more customised buds, be sure to speak to an audiologist. They are able to make earplugs specially for your own ears, making them much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Finally, ear plugs also serve a dual-purpose at festivals - You might actually get some sleep if you’re wearing them!
Break from the beats
If you take regular breaks, you will give your ears a rest. This is a great idea because you will be resting your cochlea, a fluid filled, snail-shaped chamber in your ear, filled with thousands of hair cells. Not taking a break from noise can disrupt the fluid and break hair cells. These, as mentioned before, do not grow back.
Taking that break will also give you a great opportunity to catch up with your friends, or even get to know a special someone in more detail.
Water great idea
You may have read hundreds of listicles about how important staying hydrated is at festivals, but it turns out dehydration can also affect hearing. Staying hydrated reduces the likelihood of temporary hearing loss and improves balance. So, don’t forget your water bottle and fill it up regularly. Your ears (and most other parts of your body) will thank you.
Stand next to the mixing desk
We get it, noise is cool, and standing next to the speaker during the drop of your favourite EDM song can be a life-changing experience. But standing there the entire festival is a big no-no. For the best sound, stand next to the mixing desk, usually located a fair way away from the front, in the middle. You’ll benefit from excellent sound, you won't be packed into a heaving, sweaty mass of humans, and you won't be endangering your hearing.
Each summer, we're always told to pile on the sunscreen, stay hydrated and other ways to protect against the heat. But we are not often told to protect our ears. Make sure you take care of yours this summer!