Hearing loss coming to a theatre near you

It can be a scary experience to go to the movies. But a visit to the cinema can also be unsettling for your ears. The sound levels in action films have reached staggering heights.

Improved sound technology makes it possible to turn up the volume without the distortion of the old days. But it doesn't mean that it is less dangerous for your ears.

Researchers investigated the sound level of some recent movies. At a showing of 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' they found an average sound level of 74 dB. A peak was registered at 93 dB during the battle with the snake.

'The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers' was even noisier, with an average noise level of 78 dB and a peak of 95 dB. But more alarming is that the movie lasts a little over 3 hours, and that the sound level is above 80 dB for 29% of the time. This means that you are putting your ears at serious risk for around one hour while eating your popcorn and having a great time.

An average noise level of 70 to 78 dB is similar to rush hour traffic, which can be annoying but not dangerous unless you are in it for long periods of time. However the maximum levels and the percentage of time in the dangerous zone are a completely different story. A person should not, for instance, be exposed to a sound level of 110 dBA for more than one minute and 29 seconds each day.

The film industry is aware of the problem but shows no interest in reducing the sound levels, for competitive reasons. One top Hollywood producer once said: "I'm not going to make a shuttle rocket launch too low. I'm going to make it so that you feel it in your seat and in your gut".

So, next time you're going to the movie, be aware that even family movies can be harmful to your hearing.



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