Just how loud is loud?Turn it up DJ?
It seems fairly obvious doesn’t it? A disco should be loud….but just HOW loud can it be before it causes damage to your hearing?
Actually – not as loud as you might think! And permanent hearing damage caused by loud music is a very real problem – trust me, I’ve recently had hearing aids fitted due to losing 30% of my hearing, despite using protection!
Sound is measured in DECIBELS. That’s the pressure being exerted on your eardrums by the volume of air being moved from the sound source. But discos should be loud shouldn’t they?
Modern PA systems (that’s speakers to the layman) can produce anything up to 130+ decibels at a distance of a metre. That’s the amount of air movement being produced by the voice coils inside those boxes of tricks we DJs use to play music. My biggest system produces 132db, and believe me (and a few photographers that have stood in front of them to take the ultimate dance floor shot)….it feels like you’re being slapped around the face…it actually stings!
After 4-5 hours of working between those speakers, my ears “ring” and my head aches. It’s a health and safety nightmare and causes real pain and long term damage. After 30 years of doing this job…it really is scary!
I NEVER run my systems at that level.
Why? Because it’s not safe!
Let me use a graphic to explain sound levels of everyday things you come into contact with…
There are safe exposure limits to sound levels which may surprise you!
My sound system tends to run at around 95db on the dance floor. The further away you get from the speakers, the quieter the sound becomes (as a general rule, every metre away from the speakers is around a decibel quieter). My aim is to fill the immediate dance floor with sound, and let guests further away enjoy being able to hear each other talk.
I do this for a very good reason!
Where I stand, the sound levels can and regularly DO exceed 120db (I’ve always worn hearing attenuators to protect me from this level….but even then…it’s not safe as the recent fitting of hearing aids will attest 🙁 ). The “normal” attenuators we DJs wear mute the sound levels by around 17db…that means we’re still hearing sound at around 100db for the 4-5 hours of your party…it’s not safe!
At those levels – the “safe” exposure level is around 15 minutes in a 24 hour period!
So…back to you and your guests….
As the evening progresses, you become accustomed to the sound levels and feel the need for things to be louder (your ears and brain become used to the sound levels and sometimes the sound coming from the PA system can seem to get quieter)….this is because your hearing is beginning to fail! Your ears and brain are muting the sound to protect themselves!
I’m regularly asked to “turn it up” regarding the volume.
The answer is more often than not…no! It’s not because the PA won’t handle it (because it will). It’s not because I’m a miserable bugger (because I’m not…plus I also have to abide by any sound restrictions imposed by your venue!). I’m actually monitoring the sound levels you and your guests are hearing, and looking out for your ability to actually hear the next morning…it’s as simple as that!