What Causes Tinnitus (And Tips On Preventing It)?

Tinnitus: The Silent Killer

Protecting your hearing is critical, especially considering how easy it is to prevent ailments as tragic as tinnitus and hearing loss.

It’s as simple as wearing protection… ahem, ear protection, to be clear.

Ultimately, it’s pretty simple. Your ears are your most valuable asset as a musician; don’t allow them to be ruined.

What Is Tinnitus, And What Causes It?

Tinnitus is a form of ear damage from loud noise that typically manifests as a persistent ringing or buzzing sound in the ears.

It can be caused by prolonged exposure to consistent volume levels, with higher volumes causing damage more quickly than lower ones.

You may experience the symptoms of tinnitus as a temporary occurrence, i.e. right after a club or a show, but it may also stick around, indicating that loud music has damaged the hair cells lining your inner ear. It doesn’t matter how fast the hair you don’t want grows on your ears, the ones inside aren’t quite as resilient.

Scary Facts About Tinnitus

15 years ago, the BBC posted an article with the results of a survey stating “eight out of 10 young people who go to clubs and pop concerts regularly” were unconcerned about their auditory health.

Since that time, Action On Hearing Loss has reported that 10 million people in the UK are currently suffering from hearing loss, and they project that number to jump up to 14.5 million people by 2031.

Assuming that projection is accurate, roughly 1 in 5 UK residents will experience ear damage from loud noise.

Action On Hearing Loss posits that the inability to fully enjoy music as a result of earplugs is merely a “misconception.”

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Credit to FindATopDoc.com for the infographic.

In fact, employers in the entertainment industry are required by law to provide ear protection to staff in situations where sound levels will be in excess of 85 dB.

This applies to many live music venues, which often range from 100 dB, the equivalent of standing by your blender while it’s making a smoothie, to 130 dB, the same volume you’d experience standing 100 meters from a jet during takeoff.

Noise levels so extreme are often described by auditory health professionals as “loud.”

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For a breakdown of what earplugs to buy, check out our comprehensive review of 6 different earplugs for concerts here.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The damage caused by sound is not just a result of volume level — but is “caused by volume levels sustained over time, with higher volumes requiring significantly less time to cause damage”, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Eighty-five decibels is often where the conversation starts when talking about safe noise levels, but because of the time factor, it would be wrong to simply say that anything over 85 dB is safe.

In fact, your ears can probably handle 85 dB for about eight continuous hours before it becomes harmful.


At a concert or festival, however, noise levels often exceed 100 and even go up to 120 dB. For noise levels that high, safe exposure ranges from around 10 seconds (120 dB) up to 15 minutes (100 dB), well before the end of just about any concert. Many concerts and festivals go on for hours, more than enough time to cause damage.

To be fair, your ears can handle 120 dB completely unprotected.

However, if that exposure lasts for even 30 seconds, you may have damaged your hearing. Duration of exposure is just as important in preventing hearing damage as the volume level. When looking at Noise Reduction ratings, know that for every 3 dB of noise reduction, you get back about double the safe exposure time.

To give a quick example, 95 dB will take about an hour to do damage.

With earplugs that give a 3 dB reduction, you’re now hearing this sound at 92 dB, and that’ll take about 2 hours to do damage. A 6 dB reduction would bring the sound to 89 dB, and you could handle that for just about 4 hours. However, if the music gets turned up to 98 dB, and you don’t have anything to filter it, suddenly you only have half the safe exposure time, 30 minutes.


Earplugs, earplugs, earplugs. And I’m not referring to the 99c ones you get behind the bar.

In an attempt to find the best damn earplugs in the world, we went out and bought 6 different pairs, all of which have received critical acclaim in some way, shape or form.

If you value your hearing, we highly suggest you take a look at our musician earplugs review.

Last update on 2019-07-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API