DeafHear Regional News
The music at fitness classes often reaches unsafe levels blaring anywhere from 100 to 115 dB with spinning classes among the worst offenders. Studies show that participants as well as instructors in such classes are at serious risk of damaging their hearing.
With the rising popularity of fitness programmes like spinning, Zumba and BodyPump, loud pounding music goes hand in hand with the sweat and rising heart rates. When working out, music is a great motivator, but prolonged exposure to loud music can also damage hearing and may lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
Fitness centres fail to follow industry guidelines
PIX11, a New York station conducted undercover noise level tests at four studios in the US and the results were alarming. All four studios played at near constant 100 dB or more and during classes all the studios spiked to levels of 115 dB, exceeding the known safety levels from industry fitness groups and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
These results confirmed previous research from George Mason University in Virginia in the US showing that noise levels during spinning classes in a number of fitness centres in the US often reached 100–110 dB, which is 30–40 dB higher than the recommended maximum levels.
Instructors are most at risk
The high noise levels are putting fitness class participants at serious risk of damaging their hearing, but it is the instructors, who spend most of their workday in loud music, who are most at risk. “It’s the industry joke that we’re all deaf by the time we’re 35,” Teri Bothwell, group fitness director of Sport & Health said in a Washington Post article.
One-time exposure won’t leave a participant or instructor with a hearing loss, but prolonged and consistent exposure to decibels greater than 90 dB could lead to permanent hearing loss because of the damage done to the hair cells in the inner ear.
“When we see it at 99 dB or above for more than an hour on a regular basis, there’s a very high risk of hearing loss. Once it’s gone, you’re not getting it back,” said. Dr. Leslie Stengert, a health professor of Indiana University in Pittsburgh in the US.
DeafHear believes that similar sound levels are used in many fitness centres in Ireland. We advise staff and participants to ask for the sound volume to be turned down and that the guidelines from the Health and Safety Authority are followed.
Brendan Lennon, DeafHear’s Head of Advocacy says that damage to one’s hearing may not be immediately apparent, but in time regular exposure to excessive noise will take its toll and can seriously affect a person’s quality of life later on. “If a person experiences a ringing noise (tinnitus) in their ears following a fitness session, this is a sign that damage is being caused to their hearing” he said.
Health and Safety Authority Noise at Work guidelines can be found here: www.hsa.ie
DeafHear.ie will provide spokespersons to comment on issues relevant to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people on request.