Music is an essential part of many workout programs. When the beat kicks in, you can use that pulse to guide your pace, and fitness trainers and experts use the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of a song to guide you through a warm-up, a challenging workout, and a cool-down period. Music also inspires us to do our best. Through uplifting lyrics and major chords, we can feel invigorated in the workout, ready to tackle our own fatigue and weaknesses. Although music can guide us through a great workout, that music can also pose a risk to our hearing. Specifically when the volume of music exceeds a safe threshold, it can even cause permanent hearing damage. Many fitness programs and exercise classes use loud music to inundate the senses with stimulation, breaking down your resistance to giving your all. That same inundation of sound that helps you work harder also inundates the sensitive features of your inner ear. Let’s explore some of the risks of noise exposure in fitness classes, as well as what you can do to advocate for a safe workout environment.
Music and Movement
Many fitness classes use music to guide your movement through the workout, and spinning classes are known for taking advantage of this connection. These classes encourage cyclists to pace the cycles of their feet with the music. When the BPM increases, they can use the music to increase the speed of the cycles, as well. Many people find these classes fun and inspiring, and some instructors even use colored lights to bring a party vibe to the class. Although music inspires us to have a rigorous workout, many of these classes are blasting that music at an unsafe volume.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Our hearing can be damaged by noise through a combination of volume and duration. When a sound is relatively quiet, it can be endured for a long time without causing hearing loss. However, when that sound gets louder, the time of safe exposure goes down. A general baseline for noise exposure is 85 decibels, the volume that can be endured for 8 hours without hearing damage. Each three additional decibels of volume shrinks that time in half. For instance, a person can endure 88 decibels of sound for 4 hours, and so on. As you can see, loud sounds can only be endured for a few minutes without suffering damage, and something as loud as an explosion or gunshot at close range can cause hearing loss in an instant.
Hearing Damage in Fitness Classes
Some fitness classes, including spinning classes, have been measured to have damaging volumes. These classes might play music at a volume of 100 decibels or more. At that level, the music can only be endured for 15 minutes without causing permanent hearing damage. Though the volume might change over the course of the class, you can see how these volumes can cause damage for those in the class. Although that volume might be uncomfortable if you heard a construction site or transportation hub emitting that sound, the excitement of the class and the enjoyment of the music can make it seem more palatable in that context.
What can you do to protect yourself in these fitness classes? In the first place, you can take a decibel reading for yourself in the class. Free apps are available for your smartphone to measure the decibel level of the class. Try taking a few measurements to make sure you have a good reading, and take note of differences through the class. If you find that the decibel level of the class is too loud, you can take your hearing health into your own hands. Try talking to the teacher or studio director about these volumes. If you face resistance but you love your fitness class, you can always wear earplugs to class. Even disposable, foam earplugs can bring down the overall decibel level of a situation by roughly 10 decibels, and that reduction might be enough to enable you to endure a full class without damage to your hearing. Don’t risk your hearing health while improving your physical fitness!