Don't overwork your ears at the gym

Have you stuck with your resolution to get healthier this year? Have you started going to the gym or maybe a spin class a couple times a week? Congratulations on your motivation to set a goal and stick with it!

With restrictions on gyms and fitness classes being alleviated, you may find yourself more inclined to workout in these group settings. At many of these niche workout gyms, loud music almost always paces the workout, the sweat, and the racing heart rates. However, instructors and participants of these classes could be at risk of damaging their hearing.

As we set goals to improve our physical health, it’s important we’re mindful of our overall health, and that certainly includes our hearing.

Learn and Listen - Safe Sound Levels

The unit of measurement used to gauge the intensity level of sounds is the decibel (dB). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s standards, safe levels of noise exposure are as follows:

★ 85 dB for eight hours

★ 88 dB for four hours

★ 91 dB for two hours

★ 94 dB for one hour

★ 97 dB for half an hour

★ 100 dB for 15 minutes

Average sound levels of workout classes actually reach unsafe listening levels quickly. Research has shown that many classes average noise levels well over 90 dB, with some between 100 to 110 decibels [1], which are equivalent to the level of a rock concert or chainsaw!

You can prevent noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the only preventable cause of hearing loss. Although you may become used to that booming music in a workout class, unfortunately, your ears and brain will not. Once you lose your hearing from noise exposure, known as a NIHL, your hearing will not regenerate. A NIHL is typically gradual; by the time you notice it, it is often too late to prevent damage. However, it’s never too late to take action and prevent further harm.

Most owners and gym instructors think that loud music is motivating and helps retain clients, however, not every member agrees. Most importantly, research suggests increasing the tempo/beat (instead of the volume) is a better way to motivate fitness classes.

The Music is Too Loud IF….

You’ll just trust your gut. If you think it’s too loud, it probably is.

  • You need to shout to your friend or person beside you just to hear you.
  • You notice that your ear(s) are ringing during and/or after class.

Download the mobile application SoundCheck by Starkey, which lets your phone measure environmental noise levels in real time. This will help you know if the music is played at a safe volume. SoundCheck can be used in situations outside of the gym, too — like at restaurants and concerts, etc.

Tips to avoid NIHL in fitness classes

When you’re thinking about joining a gym, try it out a few times to check out the noise level, and make sure it is an acceptable volume by using the SoundCheck app.

It’s important for you to be an advocate for your own hearing health. Talk to the instructors and/or the gym manager/owner about the loud sound levels. If you think it’s too loud, you’re probably not alone.

Get yourself a hearing test, especially if you experience a change in your hearing, or ringing or fullness in your ears that last up to and over 24 hours.

You can also consider wearing hearing protection during classes and try finding a location that’s as far away from the music source (speakers/sound system) as possible. Foam earplugs are an economical solution, or consider purchasing custom earplugs to best reduce the sound levels.

Remember it’s okay to take a break during class too! When you need a sip of water or to towel off, step out of class for 30-60 seconds to give your ears a rest.

Starkey advocates living a healthy lifestyle, and we’re here to remind you to take care of your hearing in addition to the rest of you. Hear better… Feel better… Live Better!


By Starkey Canada