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  • Charlene Coetzee

Hears to jolly Jingle Bells!

With the Christmas Season here, we are all enjoying more music and festivities than usual with the occasional noise overload. Whether attending a very loud Christmas party, or

enjoying joyous carol singing the question is often: how loud is too loud?

According to the Royal National Institute of the Deaf, 85dB is the threshold level at which hearing can become damaged over time. Short-term exposure to (most) loud sounds isn’t likely to have a lasting effect on hearing, but prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to permanent damage.

Although the size of the group and the surrounding acoustics plays a significant role, a Christmas party can easily reach 85dB. Fortunately, the safe exposure time for noise as loud as 85dB, is up to eight hours per day. So, unless you’re planning an all-nighter, you’re unlikely to need ear protection for the average Christmas party.

The general rule of thumb when you find yourself at a very loud party, is when you can’t hear someone that is about 2 meters away without shouting, the noise levels could be harmful to your hearing. Fortunately, nowadays there are easy-to-use decibel readers available as Amartphone apps that gives quick, and reasonably accurate assessments of your immediate surroundings. It’s a very useful tool especially if you find yourself often in very loud environments.

If your Christmas party is at a nightclub though, then you definatyrisk damage to your hearing after just 15 minutes! The average nightclub plays music at 100dB, that will likely damage hearing even after very short exposure time so it will be wise to invest in good ear defenders.

But what about other Chrismas sounds? According to Cirrus Research plc, Christmas carol singing could be as loud as 90dB as is some singing Santa decorations. Fortunately, we’re likely to enjoy any these for a few hours at most and therefore don't risk any damage to our ears (other than the trauma of an irritating singing Santa!). Out of own intersest, I did a quick sound level check of a standard party blower, the ones often found in Christmas crakers. And I was indeed blown away (so to speak). It measured around 100dB when you are to blow it yourself, and a massive 117dB if someone blows it right by your ear! Apart from being uncomfortable, such extremely loud short bursts can in fact cause tinnitus on occation.

So to enjoy Christmas sounds for years to come, be sure to protect your hearing when needed. We can only hope that even Santa is wearing ear defenders when he is riding his sleigh, as studies of cyclists have shown that wind noise could be as loud at 120dB when riding 60mph, much slower than Santa’s top speed!

Farnham Hearing provides a range of ear defenders including custom made products specifically designed for musicians.


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