Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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Everyone loves going to the movies. It’s a favorite pastime worldwide and enjoyed by people of all ages. Movie and sound technology have also surpassed our wildest dreams. The intensity of images, effects, sound and even motion have expanded sensory arenas that are quite astounding! The push to make movies a totally immersive experience has yielded some stunning audio-visual treats!
Projections onto large gently curved screens, mounted seating and greatly enhanced sound systems allowed us experience sound and images on an altogether heightened level. The advent of digital effects allowed us to see and experience environments only restricted by imagination. The movies signify to many of us some of our favorite memories shared with friends and family.
As technology and movie making pioneer the ultimate means for our enjoyment, we also need to be aware of how sound affects our natural hearing experience.
The growing concern over the detrimental effects of noise pollution is not restricted merely to loud traffic, construction or the misuse of earbuds. Noise-induced hearing loss can be attributed to home and work environments as well as a myriad of personal practices and lifestyle choices. The overarching problem with hearing loss caused by noise is that often the condition doesn’t reveal itself until the damage has already been done.
Let’s get acquainted first with the levels of sound that we are safe being exposed to. The unit of measurement for sound is the decibel or dB. The level of sound that is best suited for us sits at around 80 dB and would be best exemplified by normal conversation. The most egregious sounds would be from fireworks and firearms, which are typically in the 120+ dB range. In general, the louder the sound, the shorter amount of time it takes to harm your hearing and could contribute to noise-induced hearing loss.
How Loud are Movies?
As we explore the effects of noise-induced hearing loss, remember that the fluctuating variables of the intensity of sound and exposure to it will determine the extent of damage to your hearing.
As we indulge in our favorite recreational activities such as watching movies, it’s important to take into account that the sophisticated sound systems that modern theaters have to offer do come with some down sides. It is up to the individual theaters to monitor sound levels so be very aware of the theater you use. It varies from location to location and country to country.
The following are some of the results of sound tests on a variety of popular movies:
- “The Stork,” an animation for children, reached over 99 decibels.
- “The Magnificent Seven,” a gunfight filled Western film, fluctuated between 93 to a little over 97 decibels.
- “Deepwater Horizon,” an action-packed adventure, peaked at almost 105 decibels.
All of the above can be equated to attending a rock concert without earplugs!
Factors Contributing to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Exposure length, decibel volume and proximity are the factors we need to be aware of and exert control when possible. Put simply, if you suffer from hearing loss or want to take preventative steps to prohibit noise-induced hearing loss, change your physical location. When you are attending a movie make sure you are seated further away from the speakers as possible.
Another measure of precaution, and is quite handy anytime and anywhere, is to carry and use earplugs! The CDC also has information regarding phone apps to gauge the sound levels of your immediate environment. These apps are useful not only for recreational settings but also for use at home and at work.
If you have walked out of a movie theater and your ears are ringing then you have mistreated your hearing, and hopefully all you will need is some time for the delicate and minute cilia in your ears to heal. If you have become impervious to loud sounds then a hearing assessment is needed as irreversible damage might already have occurred.
There are close to 50 million Americans that suffer from hearing loss. The negative impact of hearing impairment is now a public health issue. It is best to be proactive so that you can continue to enjoy your hearing experience fully and naturally by taking some precautions and being wise about your choices.
At Encore Hearing, we encourage you to maintain your overall well-being by taking your hearing health seriously. We are here to answer any questions you or a loved one might have. Make an appointment with us for a comprehensive hearing assessment and together we can sustain a fuller, richer hearing life now and in the future.