Andrea Boidman, the executive director for the Hearing Health Foundation, explained that hearing loss commonly results from prolonged exposure to noise levels at or above 85 decibels, and that gyms — specially group fitness classes — could be putting members at risk for hearing damage.
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, hearing loss is a common problem amongst the U.S. population.
The Hearing Health Foundation reported that “1 in 5 Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear,” and that “20 percent of the U.S. population aged 12 years and older has hearing difficulties severe enough to impact communication.”
“My guess is that most gyms, especially group classes, exceed 85 decibels,” said Boidman. “When you have prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels, you’re putting yourself at risk for extensive damage.”
“Prolonged exposure” is based on standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). According to Boidman, the EPA suggests that humans be prolonged to noise levels of 85 decibels for no more than 45 minutes. After that amount of time, damage is a possibility.
How can you discover what noise levels your gym or group fitness classes are producing? According to Boidman, smart phone apps are now reliable sources, many of which are free. “There are apps you can get for any smart phone that enable your phone to act as a decibel meter,” said Boidman. “They’ve been tested against professional equipment, and are pretty reliable.”
After completing a search on iTunes for decibel meter apps, 12 different apps popped up for iPhones and iPads. Similar results were produced when searching for decibel meter apps for Android smart phones.
Boidman stated that some clubs might be reluctant to sacrifice noise levels for the sake of gym or class energy, but that it’s not worth the risk to your instructors and members. “I’ve heard many instructors say that loud music is such a big part of the class experience, but it can really cause damage,” she said. And hearing loss is becoming more common. “1 in 5 teens now have hearing loss, and some of it is completely preventable, by limiting non-recommended noise level exposure,” Boidman explained.
By Rachel Zabonick