Is Electronically Amplified Music too Loud? What do Young People Think?

Noise Health. 2002;4(16):47-55.


Listening to loud music has been associated, in a number of studies, with hearing loss and tinnitus among young people. However an unanswered question is whether or not these same young people want to have their music so loud. In our study 533 young men and 167 young women, in the age group 16 to 25, who were attending a vocational training centre, responded to a questionnaire and volunteered to have their hearing assessed. The questionnaire sought information on listening habits, on the kinds of events attended, on whether the music at these events was too loud or not, and if the respondents considered their hearing had been impaired. Analysis of this data indicated that 79% of the subjects attend discotheques, 52% pop and rock concerts, and 35% techno parties (e.g. raves). A significant number considered the music at these venues was too loud. Some 42% considered this was the case at discos, 35% thought pop and rock concerts too loud, and 39% held a similar view of techno parties. Conversely, fewer than 3% considered sound levels at these events to be too low. On the basis of the response to the questionnaire we estimate that over half the respondents (56.6%) have a sound exposure (L(eq)) from music of over 87 dB(A). It is not surprising therefore that 71% reported that they had suffered tinnitus following attendance at a music event. The hearing capacity of the sample was measured by audiometry. These measurements detected hearing loss in 11% of the 700 individuals tested. However it was not possible to show that the risk of hearing loss increased with increasing exposure to loud music. We conclude that young people neither demand nor require the excessive sound levels typical of most music events.