LOUDEST Concert and Tinnitus

This is a two part question.

1. What is the loudest concert (or event) that you have attended?

2. How long have you had tinnitus, is it getting better or worse and how are you dealing with it?

Personally, the loudest concert was UB40 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. Loudest event was drag racing at SIR (Seattle International Raceway) which was like sticking your head in a jet engine.

Regarding tinnitus. Over the past year or so I have noticed a constant high pitched "sound" in my ears. Mostly the left ear. At this point I don't actually know if it is constant or whether I just forget about it sometimes. I know use a white noise box when I go to sleep. Otherwise I tend to fixate on the ringing.


I used to have a recording studio and at least half my projects were hard core bands in the Portland area. I went to see most every band I recorded at one or more of their live shows and the sound levels were punishing. Fortunately I had discovered Etymotic earplugs (ER20) and I wore them religiously. I ordered a couple dozen pairs at a time directly from the manufacturer because I would give a pair to each member of the bands I recorded along with a lecture about protecting their hearing. When the guy from Etymotic found out what I was doing with them he gave me a huge discount.

Before I learned to wear earplugs I walked out of an ELP concert in Spokane because it was stupid crazy loud and I couldn't take it any more. After about 20 minutes my two buddies and I just looked at each other and instantly knew what all of us were thinking. We walked out. Prior to my hardcore experience that concert took the prize.

I was able to escape tinnitus, at least so far (I'm 67), because I knew that my dad and my brother fought tinnitus and hearing loss because of their military service. I would break off the filters from a couple of cigarettes and stuff them into my ears to get some relief before I learned about high quality earplugs. I made absolutely sure that my kids always had earplugs when they went to live shows and they have thanked me.

I’ve had tinnitus for at least 40 yrs—first noticed it hiking in the desert Southwest in 1986 and I was in a dead silent box canyon hearing the most astounding loud ringing in my ears! Mine was caused by blasting music in my parents’ and then my own car. It was the 60s and we all turned up the AM radio as far as it would go. Loudest concert I ever attended was Stones Steel Wheels tour in DC around 1989. RFK Stadium was LOUD sound was CRAP  but we stayed for the whole 4 hrs! Did not help the tinnitus. I’ve more or less gotten used to it though it does seem really loud these days.


Motorhead was ridiculously loud

Not entirely unexpected, surely?

Some friends saw Motorhead at an old theatre where they said the whole balcony where they were stood was shaking. They were scared that it might even collapse.



My Bloody Valentine. Roseland Ballroom, NYC. 2008.
I couldn’t believe sound reproduction could attain that level. I had been to very loud shows in the past; this was at the level of an air-show.


I’ve heard enough about them to never attend a concert.
Not even on my doorstep. I think the figure 140db was mentioned.




Another (dis)honorable mention to every wedding and bar mitzvah I’ve gone to in the last 20 years!


Things seem to be better these days.

I remember some nightmare wedding receptions during the late 80s and 90s. Everything loud, everything distorted, everyone too drunk to notice.

Of course once you’re blissfully drunk, there’s no such thing as too loud.



The Killers (everything super-loud and super-distorted)

The Verve (everything super-loud and super-distorted)

Yes, a most deadly and unpleasant combination. Physical and musical torture. There’s really little excuse for poor PA systems these days.


From Wikipedia - Loud Bands

1972 Deep Purple was recognised by The Guinness Book of World Records as the "globe’s loudest band" for a concert at the London Rainbow Theatre, during which the sound reached 117 dB and three members of the audience fell unconscious.

1976 The Who were next to be listed as the "record holder" at 126 dB, having been measured 32 metres (105 feet) from the speakers during a concert in London at The Valley on 31 May 1976.

1984 and 1994 The Guinness Book of World Records listed Manowar as the loudest band for a performance in 1984. The band claimed a louder measurement of 129.5 dB in 1994 at Hanover, but Guinness did not recognise it, having discontinued the category by that time for fear of encouraging hearing damage.

1986 An article by Scott Cohen appeared in February 1986 issue of Spin entitled "Motörhead is the Loudest Band on Earth". In it, Cohen alluded to an undated concert during which Cleveland’s Variety Theater actually sustained damage from Motörhead reaching a decibel level of 130. This he reported was 10 decibels louder than the record set by The Who.

1990 The 1990 edition of the Guinness World Records contained the following entry: Largest PA system: On August 20, 1988, at the Castle Donington "Monsters of Rock" Festival a total of 360 Turbosound cabinets offering a potential 523kW of programme power, formed the largest front-of-house PA. The average Sound Pressure Level at the mixing tower was 118dB, peaking at a maximum of 124 dB during Iron Maiden’s set. It took five days to set up the system."

1996 The English House/Electronica band Leftfield, while on tour to support their debut album Leftism, gained notoriety for the sheer volume of their live shows. In June 1996, while the group was playing at Brixton Academy, the sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the roof, with the sound volume reaching 135 dB.

2007 British punk band Gallows allegedly broke Manowar’s penultimate record, claiming to have reached 132.5 dB; however, this record claim was made in an isolated studio as opposed to a live environment.

2008 Manowar registered an SPL of 139 dB during the sound check (not the actual performance) at the Magic Circle Fest in 2008.

2009 On July 15, at a Canadian concert in Ottawa, the band Kiss recorded an SPL of 136 dB measured during their live performance. Noise complaints from residents in the area eventually forced the band to turn the volume down. (136 dB is approximately the threshold of pain, and about as loud as a jet taking off 100 metres (330 ft) away, or the loudest human voice shouting 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) away from the ear.)



With all those entries, it's a shame there's no measurement of distortion, too, or the measurements can be misleading as far as the subjective experience. 

In my younger days, I came home from many a concert with my ears ringing, sometimes for a couple of days.  But the concert that hurt the most was a local three piece band. Guitar, keyboards and drums. The venue was the upstairs of a bar. They weren’t particularly loud, but something in their PA setup had me out the door in less than a half hour, but the damage was done! I’ve had issues with my right ear ever since.