Music as noise

Our knowledge about hearing damage caused by the sound originates, largely, from experience with industrial noise in workplaces. Knowledge of the auditory sensitivity to sound exposure and hearing damage, according to level and exposure time, is the foundation on which Danish and European laws and standards rests. This establishes a maximum equivalent A-weighted sound pressure level over 8 hours (LEX), known as the daily sound dose.

Today's audio technology provides opportunities to achieve extremely high sound levels, and in many cases the noise levels exceed the daily sound dose in a very short time (with a constant level of 92 dB the daily dose is reached within 30 minutes).

This creates a paradox for all sound engineers and musicians: How high can you play without putting your hearing at risk? The sound level is a key element in both the music experience and the risk of hearing damage.

The problem is that we do not know for sure if music has quite the same effect on our hearing as industrial noise. Therefore, we cannot directly apply the same methods and sound dose limits used in industrial noise.

The project mainly aims to demonstrate how hearing is affected during concerts. The idea is to detect temporary changes in hearing related to the sound exposure level and compare the results with the temporary changes in hearing that occurs after being exposed to industrial noise at the same level.

Aalborg University (Acoustic) is project manager. Dorte Hammershøi and Rodrigo Ordoñez.



The output of the innovation project was to papers presented at respectively The Acoustics in Hong Kong, May 2012 and the 47th AES Conference in Chicago, June 2012.

Read "Changes in oto-acoustic emissions after exposure to live music" here.

Read "A pilot study of changes in otoacoustic emissions after exposure to live music" here.

Read the article "The risk of listening to amplified music" in here.