As the warm weather rolls in to kick off a new season in 2014, so does the new crop of summer blockbusters.
But with "Godzilla" stomping and roaring his way across theatres this month, this seemed like an excellent time to discuss the impact of loud noises in movies.
“Some theatres really turn up the volume level when movies are playing, and many people who go to the movies are quite okay with it since they believe it enhances the experience,” says Connect Hearing Director of Professional Practice M.J. DeSousa. “You don’t need to be afraid of going to the movies – a two hour visit to a movie theatre in and of itself might not be a huge risk if the rest of your day is fairly quiet. But be aware that movies can get pretty loud, and if you live in a city or work in a noisy job it can add up. ”
An article from the American Tinnitus Association provides a breakdown of decibel levels (dB) that are created by a variety of activities. For example, a ticking watch ranks at just 20 dB, a sewing machine at 60 dB, average traffic at 85 dB, a screaming child at 110 dB and a jet plane (100 feet away) at 130 dB.
Just to put that in perspective, researchers have discovered that the sound level of some recent movies may be dangerous to moviegoers depending on their cumulative exposure to noise.
Some statistics to ponder:
At a showing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", researchers found an average sound level of 74 dB. A peak was registered at 93 dB during the battle with the snake.
"The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers" was even noisier, with an average noise level of 78 dB and a peak of 95 dB. But more alarming is that the movie lasts a little over three hours, and that the sound level is above 80 dB for 29% of the time.
The BBC News reported in an article entitled “An ear bashing for the movie industry” that an investigation launched by the British Standards Institution (BSI) has revealed that popular films such as "Lethal Weapon 4," "Armageddon" and "Saving Private Ryan" could have a harmful affect on viewers' hearing.
"Godzilla", which is directed by Gareth Edwards, continues in that mold. It opened to packed movie audiences in North America this past weekend.
So despite the medical alerts, none of us concerned with hearing health should expect much help from the movie industry. Competition is fierce, and in a movie theatre where experience is everything, hearing safety is a low priority.
In the American Tinnitus Association article, there was some interesting advice regarding hearing safety. The article suggested that even before you buy your popcorn, you should consider buying earplugs:
- Keep a clean pair (of earplugs) handy in your purse, backpack, wallet or pocket.
- Wear earplugs during the trailers at the movies — their volume is typically cranked up.
- Ask the manager at the movie theatre to turn the volume down if it is too loud. Theatre staff will very often comply with this request.
Connect Hearing has always worked hard to educate people about the hidden hearing health dangers in everyday life, and that is one important reason why we encourage people to visit one of our clinics for a free hearing test.
For DeSousa, getting your hearing checked regularly deserves the same priority as a visit to the dentist or an annual physical with your medical doctor.
“If you are in a movie, and your instincts are telling you that it’s just too loud, then see the manager,” says DeSousa. “Most movie theatres are very receptive to concerns about hearing concerns, so don’t be embarrassed. You won’t be the first person to ask for the volume to be turned down, and managers often will do what they can to make it more comfortable for patrons.”