Watch Out for Dangerous Decibels in Exercise Classes

Peter Lucier, HIS

Do you love to listen to music while you exercise? Many of us do! Our favorite music gives us the motivation to keep us moving. It can be a daunting task at times to keep moving and get your heart rate up during the week. With many of us stuck at a desk for work, looking at a computer, it takes a little extra incentive to get us moving. Music can trigger endorphins in the brain which help to create heightened feelings of excitement, quell anxiety, ease pain, and stabilize the immune system. No wonder your instructor in your exercise class loves to blast music! However, it is important to monitor the levels of sound while you work out. Even a 30-minute workout session can damage your hearing.


Working Out Safely

Do you attend an aerobics class? Many of us need the extra motivation of being around others to push us towards our health goals. The CDC recommends “adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week.” It is important to get your heart rate up to fight health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and more. However, it is important to do this safer. Loud music can feel all-encompassing while it’s happening, and many aerobics instructors find that it helps motivate the class to work harder. However, if decibels surpass a certain level, then you and the others in your class could sustain permanent hearing damage.


Dangerous Decibels

Decibel is a measurement used to monitor the intensity or loudness of sound. 0dB is considered silence and a normal conversation usually average around 60dB. Any sound below 85 decibels can be listened to over time, with little risk to your ears. Past 85dB sounds can start to cause permanent hearing damage. It is not just the level of sound but the length of exposure. At 85dB you can listen for 8 hours before damage begins, but at three decibels more, the time is cut in half to only 4 hours. We may not realize it at the moment but music in some exercise classes has the potential to reach 100dB or more. At this level of listening, you can sustain a degree of hearing damage in just 15 minutes! This means many of us who attend aerobics class leave with more than just an elevated heart rate and rush of endorphins!

Turn Down the Volume

It is so important to work out, but this doesn’t mean you have to damage your hearing in the process! Turning down the volume doesn’t equal a less intense workout. You can still listen to your favorite music, but just not so loud.

If you are leaving your aerobics class with ringing ears, then this is a sign of permanent hearing loss. The ringing will most likely go away, and you may not realize that you have hearing damage, but this doesn’t mean that it is not there. Even if you don’t realize it, hearing loss is already taking a toll. At the early signs of hearing loss, you may struggle to hear some tones or parts of sentences. This makes it difficult and exhausting to communicate with others. As symptoms worsen, many find themselves choosing to avoid social interactions, rather than deal with the struggle of listening with reduced hearing. This can lead to chronic depression and isolation and the likeliness to put yourself into new situations. 

Hearing Protection During Workouts

If you love your workout class but the music seems too loud then you don’t have to give it up! Just wear earplugs while you work out. Most foam earplugs can lower the volume of the music by 15 to 33dB which puts you within safe listening limits. If you listen to headphones while you work out, make sure to keep the volume lower than 60 percent of its total potential. This will ensure that you work out safely, without damaging your ears.

Protect Your Hearing

If you do have hearing loss it is important to not let it go unaddressed. Hearing loss is a very treatable condition and dealing with it now can ensure that you stay active into the future. The first step is scheduling a hearing test now!