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Preventing Hearing Loss

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[Feature Article] Jan Voetmann, chair of the tutorial Hearing Loss—Causes, Preventative Measures, and Effects on Sound Professionals and the Audience, presented at the AES 120th Convention in Paris in May, introduced the event by explaining that the official limit for occupational noise is also used for evaluating the effects of listening to music. A sound level of 85 dBA for 8 hours of the day leads to an equivalent of around 100 dBA for a quarter of an hour, which is easily reached in leisure time by many people either in the home and yard, in clubs and discos, and at work. (For further information about equivalent noise levels see Noise Exposure on next page.) Short intervals with very high peak sound levels can still lie within the noise dose guidelines, even though they can be harmful. Voetmann said that it is difficult to find young people with normal hearing levels, based on informal data gathered at a university in Munich that showed common hearing losses consistent with listening to music at high levels. Gunshots, as experienced by hunters or soldiers, can reach 160 dB for a short period, and woodwind players in an orchestra can experience 128 dBC. If you go to a rock concert and stand in front of the loudspeakers you can experience 129 dBC. For an online sound demo, go to, where you can adjust a noise meter to hear the different sounds and sound intensities of everyday objects, courtesy the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

JAES Volume 54 Issue 11 pp. 1109-1113; November 2006
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