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I'm mixing the sound at our local church. I've always had a good hearing, and now recently I was told to turn up the volume by several people, and so I did. I turned it up to where I thought it was as loud as it could be without damaging the ears. Then I asked them if it was too loud. They said it was loud enough, but it could be louder.

Sometimes it got very loud in some choruses, and after doing this a couple of times, I was starting to think about my hearing, and after actually listening for it, I could hear this beeping noise in my ears when I'm alone. I can hear it even though the laptop is turned on, but I can't hear it during a conversation for instance. I have heared this beeping before, but then there has been completely silence. So I don't know if I just haven't paid attention to it, or if it popped up recently...

I'm 18 years old and concerned about my hearing. My dad and both my grandfathers have hearing loss, and I don't want to join them on that one... And my mom is really sensitive to loud music, and I think I am to, since the other people says it's not too loud, and they can't hear the beeping when I can. (I asked them in a quiet place if they could hear the beeping.)

What do you think about my symptoms? Could I really hear everything louder than others? Can I damage my ears at lower levels than others? Do I in that case get "the same ears" as everyone else, or will the beeping increase and my hearing be damaged faster and faster?

I've decided to buy some ear protection. A kind that you can "dial in" how much it should turn the volume down, and it's made to turn down all the frequencies equally so I can use them while I'm mixing. But at the same time, I don't want to blow the ears of the audience, so I'll have to get a dB-meter. How much do I have to pay for a reliable one? I don't want to spend a lot on features I don't need, but I don't want to buy something that isn't giving accurate enough results so I actually damage the ears of the audience. (Not many people will tell the audio engineer if they think it's too loud, people want to do like everyone else..)

Thanks for answering these questions!

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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Radioshack makes a nice cheap and reliable SPL(sound pressure level) meter (the technical term for a db meter). I've seen that particular one in many a road case and I recall it only being something like $40. As a point of reference, I generally try to mix my church's services for between 90 and 96db during worship and that's plenty loud for our young (average age in the mid to early 30s) congregation that likes it fairly loud. It's probably pretty unlikely you've damaged your hearing just from that one event. It would actually have to be physically painful to cause hearing loss quickly in an average person. General estimates say one hour at 100dB is ok and 20 minutes at 106 is ok. Your ears would be physically uncomfortable much above that point.

That said, it's not an exact science. If you are predisposed to hearing loss, the best bet is to go to an audiologist and have them test the frequency response of your hearing. They will be able to quantify any hearing loss that you may have experienced. Many things can cause occasional ringing that aren't necessarily hearing loss, so really seeing a doctor about it is the only way to really know. (You could try to do a self test as well if you have a good pair of headphones and a sound card that you know can produce well controlled SPLs.)

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Thanks for your thoughts. If I HAVE damaged my hearing, there is nothing I can do about it, and I'll never turn the volume up that loud without having the ear protection on anyway, so I don't see any point in checking my hearing. But I'll do it if it gets worse. I did it one time really loud yes, maybe half an hour, but again, there were others there saying it was okay. Thanks for the price estimate, I'll really get one of those SPL-meters! –  Friend of Kim Apr 8 '13 at 19:52
    
@FriendofKim Just a small update here. Apparently Radioshack has changed their digital SPL meter now. It used to be model 33-2055 which is the one that I've seen widely used. They now have a different one that I don't have any experience with, though the one review seemed positive. –  AJ Henderson Apr 11 '13 at 4:26
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If people think it's not loud enough and YOU think it's too loud, it might be them that suffer from hearing loss :) –  Julien N Apr 11 '13 at 10:25
    
@JulienN Maybe, since "them" are only three/four people, but my mother has always been very sensitive to sounds as well.. –  Friend of Kim Apr 15 '13 at 14:43
    
I say that because I often find people today are playing sounds too loud (or most are already almost deaf ^^). Like my fellow guitarist in my band that can stand a 3-hour rehearsal without ear plugs while I can't stand a few seconds. –  Julien N Apr 16 '13 at 15:41
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