As the cold weather takes hold in Western New York, our workouts are driven indoors to gyms, heated swimming pools, and spinning studios. Dr. Witter offers an opinion article on what is sure to be a contributor to hearing loss in young people with the rising popularity of exercise classes offering high calorie workouts paired with music at dangerously loud levels.
“The one good thing about music – when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Truer words have never been spoken by American jam band O.A.R.’s lead singer, Marc Roberge. Music takes us to another place. It’s an escape from where we are in the moment, which comes in handy when we’re pushing our quads to 110 RPM’s on the spin bike. A lover all athletic endeavors myself; I am the guiltiest of the guilty when it comes to abusing my ears with that oh-so-feel-good music to carry me through my long workouts. That is, before I knew better (read: before I became an audiologist)…
If you’re in those spin classes telling yourself it’s not that loud, think again. Unless you’re sitting there with a noise level dosimeter taking sound pressure level measurements (you’re not), don’t use your subjective barometer for what’s too loud. We naturally habituate to loudness so it’s no wonder we don’t think twice – once we get a few minutes into the class, our ears have habituated to the volume and we don’t feel as bothered as when it first starts.
I’ve also noticed that almost all spinning studios offer hearing protection which is so great to see. However, what percentage of people are actually taking and using those earplugs during class? Not many. The reason? Hearing loss isn’t a problem… until it’s a problem. You know what’s fun? Being fit and feeling good about how we look. You know what’s not fun? Hearing aids in your 30’s.
We all know someone who suffers from hearing loss – it could be a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle. We stand by and watch this debilitating thing happen to the people we love and do nothing to mitigate it or make behavioral changes to prevent it from happening to us. We all know that anything in excess is never good. The problem with loud music is that it generally doesn’t cause you to feel any physical pain when it’s too loud. Most of us bumble along through our young lives, unknowingly abusing our ears, until one day we’re at a noisy social event and we can’t understand anyone. Then from that moment (let’s call this moment “awareness”) we do nothing… for years. I’m not kidding. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before they decide to proactively address a hearing problem.
Here are a couple of opinions on why people don’t care until it’s too late:
- The antiquated stereotypes surrounding hearing loss (i.e. The “It’s not that big of a deal” mentality)
- The reluctance of our society to accept hearing healthcare as a major priority
- Baseline hearing tests are not always routinely recommended by healthcare providers
Hearing loss happens slowly, and believe me it will sneak up on you. The decisions you’re making right now about how much you’re exposing your ears to will directly shape what your life looks like later. That means how sharp we remain mentally, and for how long, as well as maintaining our social relationships as we age. No one wants to think about these things, but it will happen to you. Make the change now. Just reach for the earplugs. Your future self will thank you.
There is an app you can download called Decibel X, to get an idea of the sound level in your studio, as well as an exposure chart which lets you know how much noise is safe, and for how long, before permanent hearing damage occurs:
Hearing healthcare is at the heart of what I do as an audiologist. If you would like a consultation on how you can improve the acoustics of your studio (or restaurant, or classroom, or Church, etc.) for a better and safer experience for your clients, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].