Picture being surrounded by loud music and thousands of screaming fans. Sounds like a good time, doesn’t it? However, loud music can lead to extensive hearing loss. While we might enjoy experiencing our favorite band or artist live and in-person, how do we prevent the damage that is done to our hearing? A new study finds that ear plugs may be the key to rocking out at a concert and protecting your ears at the same time.

The Rise of Hearing Loss

More and more people are suffering with hearing loss. According the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the number of adolescents with hearing loss has increased by 31% over the last two decades, since 1988.

The ongoing theory among scientists is that social events such as concerts, festivals, and nightclubs are the reason for the increasing number. These events are known to produce sound pressure levels of up to 110 decibels for several hours. The CDC states that hearing loss can occur from being exposed to any sound louder than 85 decibels for extended periods of time.

Research Into Ear Plugs and Loud Music

Wilko Grolman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and his colleagues tested over 51 individuals attending an outdoor music festival. Twenty-five of the participants wore earplugs to the concert, while the other 26 participants did not. The concert lasted 4.5 hours and the average noise level reached 100 decibels.

The volunteers were tested using an audiogram to determine their state of hearing. They found that those who wore the earplugs were affected far less than those who went to the concert unprotected. Of the participants who suffered from hearing loss, only 8 percent were in the earplug group, compared to the 42 percent within the unprotected group. The results are similar for those who had tinnitus after being exposed to loud noises.

Authors of the study are confident in the results. They state, “This RCT [randomized clinical trial] adds evidence that earplugs are effective in preventing temporary hearing loss during high recreational music levels. Therefore, the use of earplugs should be actively promoted and encouraged to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.”

Hopefully, the research will help music lovers continue their recreational activities and protect their ears from hearing loss in the future.