Festivals and noise-induced hearing loss: Keeping your hearing protected

Author thumbnail Emma O'Dee  |  Published 23 May 2023  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 5 mins read

Four women jumping in the air in front of a tent.

Are you heading to Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, or one of the many other festivals and concerts this year?

While going to live music events is a great way to enjoy listening to your favourite bands or supporting local artists, many of us don’t realise the risk to our hearing that these events pose through prolonged exposure to high sound levels.

We’ve been speaking to Emma, a wax removal clinician and self-proclaimed metalhead, as she explains just how important it is to look after your hearing and what you can do to keep your hearing protected at your next big gig while still being able to rock out!


What is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)?

As the name suggests, noise-induced hearing loss occurs as a result of overexposure to loud volumes. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 85 dB can cause permanent damage to the delicate structures in our inner ear, which in turn results in hearing loss.

NIHL can occur gradually as a result of many years of overexposure to sounds, or suddenly as an immediate reaction to a very loud sound.

What is the impact of noise-induced hearing loss?

Although it can be temporary, more often than not noise causes permanent damage to our hearing. Aside from age-related factors, exposure to loud noises is the second biggest cause of hearing loss. 

Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus can also go hand-in-hand, as over-exposure to high volumes can trigger this condition. Often the tinnitus symptoms will go away on their own, however in some cases they don’t, which is when we would advise you to see an audiologist.

Sound Amplifier.

Why do festivals or concerts pose a risk to our hearing? 

Festivals and concerts are loud – very loud, in fact. The average live music event can quite regularly exceed 100 dB, but what does that mean? Well, to put it into perspective, you can safely listen to sounds of 85 dB for up to 8 hours, but as the loud levels creep up, the length of exposure time significantly decreases, reducing to 2 hours of exposure for anything of 90 dB and 15 minutes for sounds over 100 dB! 

With the average concert lasting well over two hours and festivals from noon til night, it’s safe to say that your hearing will be at risk of damage if not protected.

How to protect your hearing at festivals?

So, you’ve heard about the risks you can face by not looking after your hearing at live events, but what can be done? Well, here are our five top tips to put you on the right track!

1. Wear hearing protection

Hearing protection, such as ear plugs, will help limit the volume levels you are exposed to while still allowing you to enjoy listening to music. Some modern hearing protection can even reduce volume levels by over 20 decibels, which can make the music experience much more comfortable, especially for those who are sensitive to loud sounds. Ear plugs are an affordable and easily accessible solution for regular event goers, and are even reusable, as the material used can often be manually cleaned and disinfected.

If you would like to find out more about hearing protection, including how to get custom ear plugs ready for festival season, book an appointment today.

2. Take regular breaks

Large music events, like Glastonbury, often have an average volume level of around 100 decibels, which can certainly cause fans to leave with a ringing in their ears for a day or two. Moving away from the main stage for a short break will give your ears time to rest and will help limit your exposure to such high levels of noise. (Plus leaving a set for a little break normally means you can beat the queues for the toilets!) 


3. Location, location, location 

Whether you are at an outdoor festival or a stadium concert, where you sit or stand can play a big part in protecting your hearing. When arriving at your event, take a look around and see where the speakers and amplifiers are located so you can avoid standing or sitting near them. Speakers and amplifiers are designed to maximise volume levels, so being within 10 feet of one could greatly increase the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.


4. Less is more

For the regular gig-goers among us, frequent sound exposure in loud venues will reduce the time your ears have to recover. As the level of exposure increases, so will the rate of hearing loss. Taking care of your hearing in between events, such as lowering the volume of the TV or radio when listening through earphones, or reducing time spent in busy and loud environments, will help reduce the risk of damage at your next music event.


5. Be aware of symptoms

If you are experiencing a constant ringing in your ears that hasn’t eased after a few days, a continuous earache, or a noticeable change in hearing after an event, it’s important to address this promptly and speak to a professional. One of our audiologists will be able to help guide you through treatment options or simply provide some advice or reassurance. 

Concert during a music festival.

How can The Hearing Care Partnership help? 

As a regular concert-goer and heavy metal enthusiast, I always ensure I take the necessary precautions to keep my ears protected and minimise the risk of hearing loss, and I want to make sure that my patients do the same too.  

Whether you want to find out more about hearing protection, or perhaps your ears are still feeling the effects of a very loud gig, our teams are here and ready to help you.

Simply call us on 0800 52 00 546 to book an appointment, or click the button below.