Hearing loss Temporary or more permanent?

Hi there So I got my system reasonably dialed enough to impress most folks (Which isnt saying much) I happen to have my system with my computer in the center for use as a media server and have my speakers just about a meter in front of me while I am at the computer and about 3 Meters at my Listening seat and am curious. I have been playing my music louder and louder lately and am noticing a temporary hearing loss that comes right back (Very minimal but I can feel it in my ears) I have done this before but my system has never sounded THIS clean and am now holding back to make certain I preserve one my most important sense aside from the all important Spider Sense

At what point and for how long playing music at not exeptionally loud (Nothing compared to the horrible car sytems I endured being stuck in for long times as a teenager) Any way its a valid question as I really want to preserve my hearing and I really want to rock out. I can go get A DB Meter if that helps. Thanks a million Toby
The longer the periods of excessive loudness,the more permanent the damage becomes..Thats why most older Rock Musicians can't hear..Keep the loud sessions to short periods and your ears will recover ( if your lucky ) ..At some point you will pay heavy for it..Also when you start to hit 40-45 years old the aging process starts to kick in also......Something to look forward to...( speaking from experience ( 65 years old ) ..........
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The most important thing you can do at this point is find both a good ear physician and a good audiologist. In looking for both of the latter, it is important that you find people that know and appreciate your love of music. Find people that work with musicians, the classical kind if possible. Audiologist also need to be selected that can do a broad band hearing test, one that takes you out to 15K, not the 8K that most of them do. So for now, forget the 'gear', find out what the ears are doing. If you are over 65, Medicare entitles you to two ear cleanings done by a physician. You will be surprised the amount of wax and debris build up that can accumulate in your ears. I have been hearing impaired since birth, but that has not stopped me from enjoying music, and at the same time keeping peace with the neighbors. I am always surprised that audiophiles don't take care of their ears, only there gear. Would it be nice if the hi end reviewers in the audio press published their hearing curves, for in fact that is what they are using to review the equipment.
When I was a grad student decades ago, I worked at a research center aimed at the study of noise-induced hearing loss. Temporary threshold shift (TTS) was a hot topic. Rock concerts were in vogue, and lots of folks were concerned about whether they were injurious to hearing. The answer is they can be depending on where you are and for how long. If you measure carefully enough, you'll discover that even low levels of sound can cause TTS, but recovery is rapid. Buy a Radio Shack sound level meter. I'd use slow trajectory, because the auditory system integrates sound. At this point, I'm not sure what the value of a hearing test could be, but I would avoid prolonged exposure to what seem to you as loud music.

Classical musicians get permanent hearing damage also. Google may be of some help.[http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=gsis&xhr=t&q=hearing+damage+musicians&cp=15&pq=hearing%20damage%20in%20musicians&pf=p&sclient=psy&aq=0v&aqi=&aql=f&oq=hearing+damage++musicians&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=158f5021afbf0802&bs=1]
I know this doesn't quite fit the OP, but i went to a bluegrass concert at the Fox Theater in Boulder last week. Sat immediately behind the mixing board and watched as the sound man carefully kept the level between 99 and 100 db. This was for the warm-up act. I left before the Stringdusters even took the stage. Take care of you ears, friends, the pros won't do it for you.
Ok I Feel better as I know I am pretty much pushing High 80's most of the time I play loud.

By the way Thorman Im 26 and all of a sudden at the coffee shop the other day there was a cute 19 year old who likes me and I thought to myself the other girl about 28-30 is a little more my age!! WHAT HAPPENED! Short story I got the 19 year olds number just to prove to myself I still could and hope it continues for a long time (As I knock on the wood of my speakers)

I appreciate all your help and wish nothing but the best
Oh and thanks Elizabeth and everyone else
Great Thread.

Thank you Elizabeth for the Radio Shack sound meter suggestion. I'll buy one tomorrow. FWIW, I copied the table below from the Mayo Clinic Health Information web site. I'm not a Doc, so I can't vouch for it, but something to think about.

Maximum sound-exposure durations

Below are the maximum noise levels on the job to which you should be exposed without hearing protection, and for how long.

Maximum job-noise exposure allowed by law

Sound level, decibels Duration, daily
90 8 hours
92 6 hours
95 4 hours
97 3 hours
100 2 hours
102 1.5 hours
105 1 hour
110 30 minutes
115 15 minutes or less

Source: Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 2005

But see the following excerpt I pulled off of Wikipedia:

Louder sounds cause damage in a shorter period of time. Estimation of a "safe" duration of exposure is possible using an exchange rate of 3 dB. As 3 dB represents a doubling of intensity of sound, duration of exposure must be cut in half to maintain the same energy dose. For example, the "safe" daily exposure amount at 85 dB A, known as an exposure action value, is 8 hours, while the "safe" exposure at 91 dB(A) is only 2 hours (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1998). Note that for some people, sound may be damaging at even lower levels than 85 dB A. Exposures to other ototoxins (such as pesticides, some medications including chemotherapy, solvents, etc.) can lead to greater susceptibility to noise damage, as well as causing their own damage. This is called a synergistic interaction.

Some American health and safety agencies (such as OSHA-Occupational Safety and Health Administration and MSHA-Mine Safety and Health Administration), use an exchange rate of 5 dB. While this exchange rate is simpler to use, it drastically underestimates the damage caused by very loud noise. For example, at 115 dB, a 3 dB exchange rate would limit exposure to about half a minute; the 5 dB exchange rate allows 15 minutes.

While OSHA, MSHA, and FRA provide guidelines to limit noise exposure on the job, there is essentially no regulation or enforcement of sound output for recreational sources and environments, such as sports arenas, musical venues, bars, etc. . . .

Many people are unaware of the presence of environmental sound at damaging levels, or of the level at which sound becomes harmful. Common sources of damaging noise levels include car stereos, children's toys, transportation, crowds, lawn and maintenance equipment, power tools, gun use, and even hair dryers. Noise damage is cumulative; all sources of damage must be considered to assess risk. If one is exposed to loud sound (including music) at high levels or for extended durations (85 dB A or greater), then hearing impairment will occur. Sound levels increase with proximity; as the source is brought closer to the ear, the sound level increases.


The bottom line, if there is one, is that 90 db may be too high. The same may be true even at 85db. It could very well be that Elizabeth's 77db guideline is conservative and the safest of all. Of course, time exposure is important too. If there are any audiologists or ENT Docs out there, please weigh in. This is a very important topic.
Update -- Heads up Fellow Baby Boomers:

I just bought the Radio Shack sound meter for $40 and tried it out on some classical and rock records. FWIW, a couple of quick observations for the benefit, and chagrin no doubt, of my fellow Baby Boomers. First and foremost, it is clear that I have been listening to my music way too loud. Second, when I turned up the volume of my sub-woofer, the sound pressure went up quite a bit. The point being that a lot of sound pressure appears to originate in the lower octaves. Unhappily, I turned down the sub woofer gain. Third and probably no surprise, rock seems to generate a more consistent level of loud music. By contrast, the sound level of classical music varies quite a bit more than rock; indeed, transients can actually be quite loud, even though average sound pressure may not be that high.

Liz: 77db is no fun! I guess it will have to become an acquired taste if I hope to keep my hearing.
I took my GenRad Decibel Meter to a Schubert concert, piano and 4 tenors, no amplification.

From the 4th row, they had no problem sustaining 85db.

Of course, the subway ride in averaged 98db with peaks of 103+db

My ear,nose,and throat guy recommends no more than 85 db.

Hearing loss is forever.

FWIW my ENT specialist told me not to listen to music past 90dB when I went for a checkup. Obviously she does not have a hifi system at home.

Anyway back to some seriousness, do take care of your ears if you want to preserve your hearing until your old age. Although I occasionally like my music loud I try not to listen past 95dB at prolonged listening sessions. 80-85dB average would be good. If higher SPLs are preferred, do check the standards from OSHA or other similar guidelines for recommended duration of exposure.
One caveat when using the OSHA guidelines is the lobbying that goes into setting them. It costs money to make the workplace quieter. I'd be inclined to use a few dB under the guidelines or to shorten my exposure time. I attended a gathering of audiophiles at a high-end shop in soCal, and in the room with the most expensive stuff the attendees wanted the level so high I left, because it was uncomfortable.

Great advice Elizabeth. I too use a Shack digital meter and keep it handy for listening. For longer listening sessions, I adjust the volume so that the peaks (max setting, C weighted, fast response) hit just on 80. This way I know I am not doing any damage; I can relax and listen without worry. And I find that, after a few minutes, my ears take on increased sensitivity and "ramp up" their gain so that the preceived loudness increases with time.
Dbphd: Your comments make a lot of sense. Take a look at the excerpt I clipped from Wikipedia, which discussed the difference in using a 3db versus 5db exchange rate. The difference in listening threshold is quite significant.

For example, under the OSHA guidelines (which I believe are based on a 5db exchange rate), if the SPL is: (a) 90db, the recommended duration is 8 hours; and (b) 115 db, the recommended duration is 15 minutes or less. By contrast, as illustrated in the Wikipedia excerpt (presumably based on a 3db exchange rate), if the SPL is: (a) 90 db, the recommended duration is only 2 hours; and (b) 115db, 30 seconds!!!

So, last night I kept the SPL meter on while listening to various types of music. It required some discipline not to raise the gain, but I'm a believer now.
Bifwynne, I knew some of the people who were on the scientific committees that made the recommendations to OSHA.

Stevecham, I think you're doing the right thing by keeping peaks lower, but you need to know neither the auditory system nor other neural systems ramp up in sensitivity, although your perception may be concentrated with exposure. Adaptation is the mechanism, and thus it's easy to expose yourself to higher and higher levels.

Re fast v slow trajectory for an SL meter: Except for very high level peaks, gun shots usually, noise-induced hearing loss is a cumulative process. The military took advantage of what's called the stapedius reflex, in which the stapes is pulled slight away from the ear drum in response to a loud sound, by sounding a loud horn before firing a large gun. The purpose of such a reflex has been argued, but severe sounds are not part of our natural environment, so it's unlikely it was developed over time to provide protection from such sounds. Using fast trajectory is OK, but it makes it more difficult to estimate the cumulative SPL exposure.
Dbphd: Seems like you have a better grasp on this issue than most.

FYI: I set my Radio Shack meter at the C weighted/fast response levels, just like Stevecham. If I used the controls properly, I tried to hold the volume down to about 80-85 db continuously, with an average SPL of roughly, say 80db. However, for certain types of music, say classical, the SPL jumps all over the place, even though the "avergae" SPL might be in the low to mid 80s.

So my question is this: can you provide some safe guidelines when setting system volume, especially for classical music?? Thanks -- for all of us.
Bifwynne, as a general rule if it feels comfortable to you it's probably OK. If you think you're pushing it, turn the level down a bit. You might start by finding a level where soft jazz (e.g. Bill Evans), Bach, and Mozart feel right, then look at your attenuator to find a reference level. Peaks from that reference in more bombastic music (e.g. Mahler or Stravinsky) are unlikely to do any damage to your hearing. The OSHA guidelines are aimed more at the kind of continuous noise exposure found in a workplace. Bottom line: Use common sense; if it seems loud, it probably is.

Thanks again Dbphd. Funny you mention Mahler and Stravinsky, because last night, I listened to Mahler's 1st Symphony (the Titan) and Stravionsky's Le Sacre du Primtempt (sp?) (The Rites of Spring). Both are quite dynamic and have a SPL range of over 25db!!

Still, I lowered the gain!
My piano is 85 db (playing at normal velocity).

I find anything under 83 db to be non-realistic and non-involving. That said, I can listen to volumes lower in the mornings (even 75db) and be engaged, but after a day's work (office work, nothing loud), I need 85-90 db for the same involvement.
Why use C weighting on DB meter instead of A weighting? I thought A weighting was intended for audio systems that as it considers broader frequency range?
Elizabeth said in a post about her stupid tweaks on AA

"I was listening to Telarc Carmina Burana And the dynamic range with a Rat shack meter was from 55 C weight up to 93dB C weight without changing the volume knob. That is way more than I ever heard from this setup. miraculous is all I can say. And clarity. I can hear each voice in the chorus. More solid lows... And all with PRAT too."

Then she said,

"Flipping the meter dial is not exactly perfect. The softest sound from the CD was around 55dB "C" weighted, and the loudest climax was around 93dB "C" weighted.
CD maximum is 96dB this is less than half of that. 96 minus 55 is (drum roll) 41dB of dynamic range, which is well under the best CDs of over 50 dB of dynamic range.
If you stopped listening to toothbrushed trash, you might find a Cd you own that has some actual dynamic range in it".

And then you said in this thread,

"The long term listening should be no more than 80dB. at your listening position.
I would first crank the system up to your favorite level then check it. If you are in the 90's that is why your hearing is being destroyed. If 100Db, run.
Right now i am listening to opera, and i like it loud. So my RatShack meter sez 77dB 'C" peaks and the average is around 65 or below. And this is IMO loud.
I personally maintain one can learn to listen at lower levels and love it. i never usually play stuff this loud, but i love opera and want it loud to my ears. So the 77dB peaks. I just never play LOUD.
A Radio Shack meter is also useful when auditioning equipment. I used it to adjust the levels of stuff at the dealer. The majority of dealers crank stuff way up. I want it at the levels i am gonna use it.
Elizabeth (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

So which one is it Elizabeth?

" If you are in the 90's that is why your hearing is being destroyed."

or is it?

"I was listening to Telarc Carmina Burana And the dynamic range with a Rat shack meter was from 55 C weight up to 93dB C weight without changing the volume knob."

Great advice one and all, though there is nothing absolute, as this thread shows.
Going back to the OP's: "now that it clean I'm listening louder", the same happened to me with my newer, present system. No matter what level I played it at, it sounded great. But, likes Elizabeth pens, a lower volume is now all I need for satisfaction since its so clean sounding. Everything is coming through, even the dynamics and ooomph factor. Yes, I do like it a bit louder, and do so when the neighbors are away (below me-damned apartment life) but its no longer necessary.
I think if you dial it back a bit and 'listen' to it you'll find it enough.
Re A & C weighting: A-weighting is contoured to replicate the hearing sensitivity data of Fletcher and Munson; C-weighting is essentially flat. So you might use the A scale to estimate how loud a sound is and the C scale to determine its level. For hearing protection considerations, I'd use the C scale. Sharp onset acoustic events have broad frequency distribution even though the steady state event might be narrow.