by Dr. Randi Yontz
I love Nashville’s fitness community and recently attended a high energy class at one of my favorite studios. Unknowingly, this new instructor cranked up the volume over the speakers and I spent half the class trying to hear and understand the directions as well as hope I would have my hearing when I left. After bringing this up to several friends, I realized how many others are noticing the increasing noise levels in these high-energy classes.
Whether it’s cycling, kickboxing, HIIT classes, or another high-energy activity, these classes often crank up the music to harmful levels. Research from George Mason University in Virginia has found that music played during spin classes at fitness centers in the US has reached 100 to 110 decibels. Meaning, an hour of working out surrounded by sounds at 100 to 110 decibels have the potential to permanently damage your hearing. If you’re a fitness instructor, you’re exposed to these sounds for an even longer period throughout the day. This can lead to instant or gradual hearing loss that could be permanent.
Here are five tips to help protect your hearing:
Keep Your Distance
The closer you are to the sound source, the bigger the burden on your ears. Try to pick a spot as far away from the speakers as possible. If the speakers surround the room, try to stay towards the middle of the space or classroom.
If the music seems too loud, consider asking the instructor before class begins or during a cool-down period to lower the volume. You might also want to explore different gyms and fitness studios and their approach to noise management before committing to a facility.
Keeping earplugs in your car or gym bag helps ensure you’ll have a pair on hand. If you have trouble keeping them in during sweat and movement, consider a customized set from your local audiologist to help ensure a secure fit during high-intensity exercise. These secure, custom fit earplugs have noise filters that allow you to hear the instructor and music but cut down on the harmful loud sounds.
Take a Break
Per public-health recommendations, keep your noise exposure to 15 minutes or less amid 100-plus decibel levels and no more than a minute amid 110-plus decibel levels. This might seem like a lot to ask but frequent and prolonged noise exposure increases the chance of lifelong hearing damage. Thus, consider leaving class for a water break or an alternate activity during the loudest moments. It might do you good to step outside for a breather.
Not sure how loud your gym or class is? There are plenty of free sound level meter apps to download.
If you start to notice any issues or changes in your hearing, get a hearing test just to be on the safe side.
If you leave your workout with ringing in your ears, feeling of fullness, muffled hearing or dizziness, contact an audiologist immediately to get your hearing tested. An audiologist will be able to access the damage and recommend the next steps to take in order to find a solution.
Remember, healthy body and hearing.