When is loud, too loud?

Loud music and noise protection advice for parents

Audience clapping at loud concert

Source: Thinkstock

When the weather turns sunny and bright in the spring, people want to get out and play!  Many of the outdoor activities that families will attend are outdoor concerts and venues, like Austin’s famous South by Southwest event or the Rodeo. Kids out of school for Spring Break and the summer tend to listen to their MP3 players more frequently and for longer periods. So when do loud sounds damage your child’s hearing? ADC audiologists Janet Davila and Natalie Rooker weigh in with information and advice.

How safe is the level of loud music at outdoor concerts?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends an 85 decibel limit of sound intensity with an 8-hour exposure (about the level of a busy street corner3), but many outdoor concerts may have a peak intensity of 150 decibels (louder than a jet engine!) and an average intensity of 100 decibels, which is not a safe level if exposure is longer than 15 minutes.

What about MP3 players and other devices?

In a study about MP3 players it was found that some young people listen to music at levels that exceed the weekly noise dose level2.  One rule of thumb is to set devices at no higher than 60% of maximum volume3. There are a few other quick tests you can use to ensure the level is not too loud: first, when wearing earphones, you should still be able to hear environmental sound around you. Second, if someone standing next to you can hear what you are listening to, the volume is too loud- turn it down!

What should parents do?

There are earmuffs created just for infants and young children attending loud concerts with their parents that can be obtained from a variety of on-line sources such as Amazon. As for MP3 players, teens and children can use head phones or earbuds with volume limiting controls so they can’t turn the volume up to damaging levels. These too, can be obtained by a variety of on-line merchants.

Adults are also encouraged to protect their hearing with foam ear plugs, ear muffs, or custom made ear plugs. At ADC, our Audiology department offers a variety of custom ear plugs for noise protection, including musician’s filtered ear plugs for musicians or teens in school bands.

So, if you or your children use MP3 players or are attending concerts, remember to protect your ears!

Use this handy chart from the American Academy of Audiology as a quick reference on harmful sounds4:



1 “How do loud sounds damage our hearing?” Dangerous Decibels, N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017
2(Portnuff, C.D., et.al.. Self-report and long term field measures of MP3 player use: how accurate is self-report. Int.J. Audio.,2013; Feb: 52 Suppl 1:533-540)

3Make Listening Safe. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ASHA/Buds/WHO-Make-Listening-Safe-Campaign-Leaflet.pdf

4Turn it to the left! (2011). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.turnittotheleft.org/educationresources.html