Tijdens Eurosonic Noorderslag kun je genieten van honderden muzikale acts. Iedereen weet dat je dat het beste met gehoorbescherming kunt doen. Maar is het echt nodig? Wij vroegen het aan Dr. Dave Langers uit Groningen.
You can enjoy hundreds of musical acts during Eurosonic Noorderslag. Everyone knows you can best do this with hearing protection. But is this really necessary? We ask Dr. Dave Langers from Groningen.
Do we actually know what our ears can handle?
“As a general rule of thumb, we can handle 80 decibels (dB) for 8 hours a day. This is the average level of noise you encounter in a busy city. For each extra 3dB, however, this time is halved. At 92dB (at which point your MP3 is not yet at its highest setting) you cannot listen for longer than 30 minutes without the risk of damaging your hearing. During a concert, 100dB is easily reached, and it’s actually better then to keep your unprotected exposure limited to 5 minutes.”
But surely we can sense for ourselves when it is too loud?
“Niet op een betrouwbare wijze. Als je het zelf gaat merken is het meestal al te laat.”
What does damage to hearing consist of? Is there a part of the ear that breaks down?
“Usually in the case of damage through noise, the cilia in the inner ears are damaged, so that the sound vibrations can no longer be received as well to be converted into a nerve signal. The body does not replace these cells with cilia, so what you lose you can never get back. The connections with the nerve cells can also be weakened. In that case, a hearing aid can improve the hearing, but the ability to distinguish different sounds and the ability to understand different words in speech, for example, remain a problem. Sound will start to be “deformed” and therefore stay difficult to understand.”
And what is more harmful, a very low tone or a very high tone?
“In my opinion this is somewhat controversial. There have been many reports that high-frequency sounds are slightly more damaging, but I have not found any reliable studies on this. In each case, both high and low tones are capable of causing hearing loss and noise deafness, so in practical terms both of them are an issue. It's true that generally you first start having difficulty hearing the high frequencies, but this is not necessarily caused by exposure to high tones.”
What does good ear protection do?
“Hearing protection muffles sound. This cuts down on the dB level. Depending on how it is used, the muffling for high and low tones can be different. Usually earplugs muffle high tones better than low tones, but there are also earplugs that have a reasonable “flat” muffling profile and are thus suitable for listening to louder music, for example, without it sounding very different.”
Does it still matter if we stand right in front of the stage?
“That depends on the set-up of the amplifiers and the acoustics in the space. It definitely matters if you are standing close to or immediately in front of an amp, or far away and to the side. Most of the time strong amplifiers are set up, so in that case it is more sensible to stand towards the back. If you consider that 3dB less allows you to listen for at least twice as long, it therefore makes sense to find a place where the music is not so loud.”
Dave Langers was born in Limburg, practically at the Belgian border. After studying in Eindhoven he worked briefly for Océ, after which he specialised in audiology. In 2006 Langers relocated to Groningen for a post-doctorate degree. He was awarded a prestigious VENI scholarship for his research into tinnitus, lived and worked in the United States and England for a number of years and is now active as an audiologist with the UMCG and other institutions.
“It used to be that everywhere above Nijmegen was considered “the north” and seemed a different world. But the transition went very well: where I had expected a closed and subdued community, Groningen residents turned out to be quite involved, friendly (and noticeably tall) people. Despite the fact that I could never really settle in other places, I felt right at home in Groningen.
I meet a lot of locals through my clinical work; they tend to notice my southern accent that I have never managed to lose, but I get on fine with city-dwellers and country people alike. I love the rural aspect of the area, but I also find the city very attractive: excellent amenities in and around a lovely and compact city centre. After renting close to the centre I now live just outside of the ring road, so for me it’s very easy to browse the Saturday market on foot or to take my bike out for a ride along the Damsterdiep towards Appingedam. I’ll always be a Limburger by birth, but for me, there isn’t much that tops Groningen!”