Hey DJ, Turn Off My Favorite Song: Why Discotheques Are Becoming A Public Health Concern

9 Jul

A study in the Netherlands investigated whether repeated exposure to discotheque music could result in permanent hearing loss.  The researchers interviewed over 1600 adolescents (ages ranging from 12 to 19 and half) about their clubbing habits.  The subject group was divided into three categories based on the frequency of discotheque attendance: infrequent visitors reported attending discotheques less than once a month, moderate visitors reported attending between once a month or 1.25 hours a week and frequent visitors reported attending for more than 1.25 a week.  A survey was distributed to the participants that inquired about the subject’s “risk behaviors” and “protective behaviors.”  Interviewees were asked how often they attended discotheques, how close they stood to the loud speakers, how frequently they took breaks from the music, and whether or not hearing protection was used.

The results showed that the majority of adolescents attended a discotheque at least once within the past year, with nearly a quarter of the subjects labeled as a frequent visitor (this percentage actually increased with the age: 40% of the attendees that were 15 or older were classified as frequent visitors).  Although some of the participants claimed to take breaks during discotheques attendances, the majority of adolescents reported not using hearing protection.  Furthermore the frequent discotheque-goers took less initiative towards protect behaviors: this included neglecting to wear hearing protection, standing closer to the loud speakers (in some cases as close as 2 meters), and spending more time on the dance floor with infrequent breaks in comparison to the infrequent and moderate visitors.

Previous research found that the average volume level of discotheque music hovered around 105 db.  If you look at the the threhold for hearing, you find that 105 db is equivalent to listening to the roar of a motorcycle:

Thus it is understandable why these researchers advocate for public awareness and social intervention that could alleviate the irreversible effects of listening to sustained, loud music.  Perhaps solutions could include  1) providing “hearing rest-rooms,” areas in which the volume of the music is significantly lowered 2) administering free ear protection 3) keeping the areas directly in front of the loud speakers clear 4) placing limitations on play back volume.

The take-away message here is be smart about listening to loud music if you want to keep listening.  Don’t be afraid to groove out to those bumping house tunes with a a pair of cool, glow-in-the-dark ear plugs.

Vogel, I., Brug, J., van der Ploeg, C.P.B., & Raat, H. (2010). Young people: taking few precautions against hearing loss in discotheques. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, 499-502.

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