Noise in Health Clubs

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Noise in Health Clubs Fact Sheet

Noise Threatens Hearing
Noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the 38 million people with impaired hearing in the United States, and health statistics suggest a trend that the incidence of hearing loss is occurring at younger and younger ages. Noise-induced hearing loss, though preventable, is permanent.

Are Health Clubs Too Loud?
Continued exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dBA), about the level of city traffic, over time, will eventually harm hearing. In general, the louder the sound, the less time required before hearing damage will occur. A study by Raymond H. Hull, Ph.D. (1991) found that 80% of the health clubs and spas consistently played music which exceeded 105 dBA over one hour periods and the intensity of the instructor's voice using an FM head-mounted transmitter averaged 5 dBA above this level. 60% of the health clubs and spas studied used music and FM-transmitted voice which exceeded 110 dBA. Sound levels in a few health clubs exceeded 120 dBA for 30-minute classes. These levels pose a serious risk to hearing. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Criteria Document (1998) recommends that the maximum exposure time in the workplace at 110 dBA is one minute and 29 seconds and at 120 dBA, the maximum exposure time would be only 9 seconds.

Pump up Your Muscles, Not the Volume
To ensure safe listening levels at your health club, the International Association of Fitness Professionals recommends that music intensity during group exercise classes should measure no more than 90 dBA. Additionally, they recommend that the instructor's voice should measure no more than 100 dBA. The Association urges facilities to place a sound level meter on a stand near the front or middle of the group exercise room to get a continuous measure of sound levels during class and that instructors should check the sound level meter often to determine safe levels. It is also important for instructors to use methods other than volume to motivate a class.

Getting Physically Fit - From Head to Toe
While you're working out, take these simple steps to make sure that you're not damaging your hearing:

  • Pay attention to the volume in your exercise classes - if it sounds too loud, it probably is.
  • Ask the instructor to turn down the volume in the class.
  • Request the Opinion Statement on Recommendations for Music Volume in Fitness Classes from the International Association of Fitness Professionals at 800-999-4332 and show this Fact Sheet and the Opinion Statement to the manager of your health club
  • When possible, move further away from speakers.
  • If using a personal stereo system with headphones, play the music at safe listening levels. Rule of thumb: If you cannot hear other people talking when you are wearing the headphones or if other people have to shout to you to be heard at three feet away while the headphones are on, it is too loud.
  • Wear adequate hearing protection, such as foam ear plugs or a variety of other types of ear plugs if the music sounds too loud.
  • Pay attention to the warning signs of a noise-induced hearing loss (a ringing or buzzing in the ears, a slight muffling of sounds or difficulty understanding speech immediately after exposure to noise) and have your hearing tested by a licensed audiologist.