How to Protect Your Hearing at a Music Festival

Summer’s here, along with plenty of opportunities to get out and hear live music at festivals around the country. But while loud music may be part of the appeal, too much noise exposure can damage your hearing, and the effects can be permanent. Loud music can also lead to chronic tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, or humming noise in your ears — long after the music has come and gone. Beware, irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus can happen a lot quicker than you think.

Dangerous Noise at Music Festival

The noise from a set of music festival speakers can exceed 110dB, which can permanently damage your hearing within seconds.

Exposure to noise louder than 100 dB (decibels) for as little as 5-to-15 minutes can cause permanent hearing loss. And most festivals, nightclubs, and concert venues routinely exceed that noise level — for much longer periods of time.

How does loud noise lead to hearing loss?

Extended exposure to loud sound can damage and even kill the inner-ear cells that activate our hearing nerves. Without the help of these cells, it is much much harder to activate the hearing nerve, and ultimately this means sound must be louder before a damaged ear is able to perceive it.

How to protect your hearing at festivals

Don't despair. There are preventive measures that can protect your hearing at music concerts. Here are six easy ways to enjoy live music while keeping your hearing safe.

  • Wear earplugs: Always wear earplugs. They will not block out conversations or prevent you from hearing the music. The right kind of protection will suppress dangerous levels of sound but allow you to hear what you want. More sophisticated noise-cancelling earbuds are available, but even inexpensive earplugs costing $25 or less can reduce noise volumes to safe levels.
  • Musician’s earplugs: If you want to hear the music without distortion, musician’s earplugs are a great solution. They do require a custom-fitting, so you’ll need to find a local professional to help.
  • Take regular breaks: Sound intensity doubles with every 3dB increase. So each time the volume increases by even a little bit, hearing damage can occur in roughly half the time it otherwise would. And the difference between temporary and permanent damage to your hearing can be just a matter of minutes. When you limit exposure, you give the delicate organisms in your inner ear time to recover.
  • Don’t stand too close to the loudspeakers: The noise from a set of music festival speakers can exceed 110dB, which can permanently damage your hearing within seconds. And the closer you stand, the louder the noise. But because sound waves diminish in intensity as they pass through air, you can protect yourself by keeping your distance.
  • Get a decibel reader on your phone: Smartphone decibel reader apps are easy to download and range in price from relatively affordable to totally free. They show exactly how bad the noise is at any given time and place, letting you know how much risk you are at. Sound volume at outdoor venues is generally somewhere between 90 and 100dB. At indoor venues, it often may run higher than 110dB. A decibel reader lets you know when to put in those earplugs.
  • Look after yourself: There are other things you can do to protect your hearing health. For starters, keep yourself hydrated. That increases blood circulation, which will help you keep your ears healthy. Antioxidants are also thought to help limit noise related hearing damage, so eat plenty of blueberries before the fest!

Set timers on your phone to limit your exposure time. Remember to stand as far away as possible from the source of a loud noise. And keep your earplugs at the ready!

Are you working at the festival?

Unsafe noise levels at music festivals are well documented, and employers have ethical and sometimes legal responsibilities to protect the hearing of their employees.

For instance, in the U.S., the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) for occupational noise exposure at 85 decibels over an eight-hour shift. Average noise levels exceeding that limit are considered hazardous to employees.

And the European Union's Agency for Safety and Health at Work has issued a directive that employers should provide hearing protection for workers to maintain their continuous exposure to workplace noise at or below a range of 80-85dB.

Follow the "60-60 rule"

If you are working at a music festival, ask your employer to provide appropriate hearing protection. And if you are working security and need a headset or communication earpiece, make sure the volume is set at a safe level.

One easy tip: follow the "60-60 rule." If you're using a radio earpiece, listen at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. And just to be safe, take a 20-minute break between sessions.

About the author

This guest post was submitted by, a UK-based website that supplies a wide range of radio earpieces to the events and security industry.