Protecting Your Hearing at the Movies

Protecting Your Hearing at the Movies

It is getting warm out and one way to beat the hot long days of summer is by taking the whole family to the movie theater! This year promises to deliver some long anticipated hits for the entire family such as the new reboot of the Little Mermaid, The Elementals, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Barbie Movie. There really is nothing like a cinema experience the way it was designed on a giant screen in a dark theater with soft reclining seats. You may find many of these blockbusters in Imax or even 3D with state-of-the-art surround sound. However, while you are enjoying your popcorn, gummy worms or whatever movie snack you love, it’s important to consider the impact of the decibel level in the theater. It could be loud enough to cause hearing loss for you and the entire family

What are Decibels?

Sound pressure, also known as volume or loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dBA). We can listen to softer sounds indefinitely, but by the time they reach 85 dBA over an eight hour exposure, they can cause damage to our hearing that lasts a lifetime. If you’ve ever left a loud movie, concert, firework show or sporting event with ringing in the ears, this is a sign of tinnitus and hearing damage. The louder sounds are the shorter the time it takes for damage to occur. In fact, for every increase of three past 85 the exposure time is cut in half. At 88 dBA it takes four hours and at 91 dBA it can take only 2 hours! Dr. Nicole Laffan, an audiologist and speech pathologist at Northeastern University, explains that the movies can do big damage to your ears.

“So when you think about going to a movie, the decibel level can be between about 75 and 105 decibels,” Laffan said. At 105 dBA, damage can occur in around seven minutes! 

“Movie theaters are trying to sell tickets, “Laffan explains. “They’re trying to create a fun environment for individuals to be entertained. And their thought is that the public likes it loud and wants it louder. But studies showed the majority of individuals don’t want it that much louder.”

Limits on Noise in Movie Theaters

Not every movie theater is the same. Some will limit the volume to no higher than 85 dBA to make sure that sounds are loud without exceeding levels that will damage hearing within the exposure time. However, this only measures the average decibel level over a movie which spans 1.5 to 3 hours! There can easily be extended action sequences full of exciting music, explosions and fighting that can clock in the higher decibel levels causing damage in 15 minutes or less. 

Protecting Your Hearing

It is important to understand that even though movies seem to be getting louder and louder, there are things you can do to decrease the risk to your family’s hearing. When you really need a break from the summer heat and want to take the family to the theater, just be sure to bring along hearing protection as well. We even now make custom hearing protection for a more secure and comfortable fit for kids and adults alike that won’t reduce the quality of sound.

“They [the hearing protection] have different filters in them, where it’s filtering the sound level without impacting one’s ability to still communicate with the people that they’re with, as well as to enjoy the movie theater or the music that they’re listening to,” Laffan explains. 

Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a condition which can affect people of all ages. Children are especially susceptible because their ear canals are smaller, causing sounds to have a greater impact on the inner ear. This means that it is important to stay diligent around hearing protection not only at the movies this summer but at outdoor concerts, indoor playgrounds and anywhere that decibels may reach unsafe levels. If a hearing loss is present, we are here to help. We can test yours and the hearing of your whole family for possible hearing loss. While hearing loss is most often irreversible, we have several methods of treatment. To find out more, schedule a hearing exam for you and your family today.