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Have you set a goal to get healthier this year? Are you going to the gym or perhaps a workout class a few times a week? Congratulations on setting your goal and taking steps to reach it!

With the rising popularity of fitness classes and niche workout gyms, loud music goes in parallel with the workout, sweat, and pounding heart rates. However, instructors and participants of these classes may be at risk of damaging their hearing.

As we set goals to improve our physical health, it’s important we’re mindful of our overall health, including our hearing, as well.

Know Safe Listening Levels

The unit of measurement used to express the intensity of sound is the decibel (dB). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s standards, safe levels of noise exposure are as follows:

  • 85 dB for eight hours
  • 88 dB for four hours
  • 91 dB for two hours
  • 94 dB for one hour
  • 97 dB for half an hour
  • 100 dB for 15 minutes

Average loudness levels of workout classes reach unsafe listening levels quickly. Research from George Mason University in Virginia has shown that many classes average noise levels well over 90 dB, with some between 100 to 110 decibels — around the level of a rock concert or chainsaw!

You Can Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the only preventable cause of hearing loss. Although you may adjust to the loud music in a workout class, unfortunately, your ears and brain will not. Once you lose your hearing from noise exposure, known as an NIHL, your hearing will not regenerate. An NIHL is typically gradual; by the time you notice it, it is often too late to prevent damage. However, it’s never too late to take action and prevent further harm.

The majority of gym instructors/owners believe loud music is motivating and helps retain clients, however, not all members agree. Most importantly, research suggests increasing the tempo/beat (instead of the volume) is the best way to motivate fitness classes.

Red Flags the Gym Music Is Too Loud
  1. Trust your gut. If you think it’s too loud, it probably is.
  2. You have to shout for your neighbor to hear from you.
  3. Your ear(s) are ringing during and/or after class.

Download the mobile application SoundCheck by Starkey, which lets your phone measure environmental noise levels in real-time. This will help you know if the music is played at a safe volume. SoundCheck can be used in situations outside of the gym, too — like at restaurants and concerts, etc.

Five Tips to Avoid NIHL in Fitness Classes
  1. When considering joining a gym, try it out a few times to evaluate the noise level, and make sure it is an acceptable volume by using the SoundCheck app.
  2. Be an advocate for healthy hearing. Talk to the teachers and/or the gym manager/owner about the loudness level. If it’s too loud for you, you are likely not the only one.
  3. Get your hearing tested, especially if you experience a change in your hearing or ringing or fullness in your ears over 24 hours.
  4. Wear hearing protection during classes and find a place in the class that’s as far away from the speakers as possible. Foam earplugs are an economical solution or consider purchasing custom earplugs to best reduce the sound levels.
  5. Take a break during class. When you need a sip of water or to towel off, step out of class for 30-60 seconds to give your ears a rest.

Starkey advocates living a healthy lifestyle, and we’re here to remind you to take care of your hearing in addition to the rest of you. Hear better. Live better!