Live music shows are a popular way for people to unwind and they occupy a range of different locations, from small pubs and venues to festivals and arenas. The volume of a band at a gig can be one of the main things that a person remembers, and more people are attending gigs wearing concert earplugs to try and protect their hearing.
The truth is that it can be very risky to listen to loud music, and hearing damage can occur at a level of just 85 decibels.
85 decibels may or may not sound like much, but to put this into perspective consider that a drum hits 125db at the moment of impact, and that the continuous decibel level of a drum kit being played is 115db. Bear in mind that the readings are for a drum kit that is not amplified through a PA system, so this is the level that is heard in a small pub or live music venue.
There are various other styles of singing, and a popular one for the metal and grunge genres is loosely termed ‘screamo’. The loudest human scream ever recorded hit 128db from a distance of 8 feet 2 inches.
These figures also apply to a non-amplified voice; it is worth noting here that tinnitus starts ringing in the ears at 127db, and the hair upon a human head starts to vibrate to the music at 128db.
It is safe to assume that it is not good for a person’s hearing to experience too much live music, but the truth is that more and more people are willing to take the risk. Many bands and musicians pride themselves on being as loud as possible, so finding the loudest band is a highly contended and changeable thing.
Back in the 1970s the gauntlet was thrown down by Led Zeppelin, who hit 130db with a rendition of their song ‘Heartbreaker‘. In the 80s the Australian rock band AC/DC matched the noise levels of Led Zeppelin with a concert on their ‘Back in Black‘ tour hitting 130db.
Bringing the Roof Down
In 1996 the duo Leftfield clocked one of the highest ever readings when they hit a massive 137db at a Brixton Academy gig. The music was so loud that plaster started to fall off the ceiling inside the venue.
At the same level the human body will experience strong vibration, and between 137-140db all frequencies are painful to the human ear. In 2009 American hair rockers Kiss joined the dangerously loud band category when they were measured at 136db for a gig in Ottawa.
If a human is exposed to sounds of 140db and above then the listener experiences instant hearing damage, regardless of the amount of time the person spends exposed to this level of sound.
The throat and vocal chords start to vibrate at 140db, and at 141db a person will experience nausea after just a couple of minutes. At 153db the throat vibrates so badly that it is very difficult to swallow, and at 158db the human body vibrates violently and the feeling of nausea is very intense.
It almost seems that if bands keep trying to get louder, then fans will be risking their lives to witness their favourite band. It is said that from 200db onwards there is enough destructive force to kill a human being, and unsubstantiated quotes state that a painful 162bd was reached at a US festival in 1983.
To conclude, the World’s loudest band is an ongoing matter of contention and competition, and the Guinness Book of Records stopped listing for this particular record due to the dangers associated with mega volume gigs.
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