With the rising popularity of fitness programs 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, Tribune Broadcasting’s flagship New York station, conducted undercover noise level tests at four studios in the US and the results set alarm bells ringing. 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 OSHA, 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 (a chain of fitness centers in Virginia, US), previously 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, and part of the American College of Sports Medicine.