How are decibels regulated at concerts

Sound reinforcement

The Swiss are keen party people: around 25% of those surveyed in an online study by the University of Zurich state that they take part in events of this kind twice a week. Almost 24% of those surveyed dress up once a week and go to a club or party. This means that around half of the respondents can be found in a club or at a party once or twice a week. For many younger people, going out is one of the most popular leisure activities. As a result, they are most exposed to this type of sound reinforcement and are affected by the associated strain on the hearing.

Concerts and parties

At public events, the noise level in Switzerland must not exceed 100 dB (A) on an hourly average. 100 dB (A) should not be expected of the ears for more than two hours a week, otherwise there is a risk of hearing damage. Nevertheless, many organizers make use of the 100 dB (A) limit, although a majority of young people find the volume at music events too loud. Longer events without breaks are particularly dangerous. Because even if the music seems a bit quieter after a certain time, the ears do not get used to the volume. On the contrary: the feeling of cotton wool in the ears is actually a temporary hearing loss. If the DJ or sound engineer is also affected, it may be that he continuously increases the music level during the entire event so that the music always seems the same volume (DJ effect).
Tips for visitors to concerts and parties:
  • Switch on breaks (if necessary, visit existing quiet areas)
  • Keep a distance from loudspeaker towers
  • Complain instead of suffer! You will find that you are not alone.
  • Have hearing protection ready (either offered by the organizer - usually type A - or even better your own)

Rehearsal bars

Unlike at public events, the level can be influenced in your own rehearsal room. Nevertheless, it is usually between 100 dB (A) and 110 dB (A) there. This is because rehearsal rooms are usually poorly equipped acoustically (e.g. old air raid shelter) and the drums set a loud level to which the other instruments have to adapt. Of course, not every instrument, but also not every style of music, is equally loud. The drums are loudest with a typical sound level of 95 dB (A). Some wind instruments such as the saxophone, trumpet and trombone also have such a high sound level. But also flutes and keyboards are usually above the harmless sound level of 85 dB (A). Therefore, it is not only very loud at a rock concert, but also, for example, in a Guggenmusik practice room.
Tips for bands:
  • Sound level meter
  • Cover the walls and ceiling of the practice room with sound-absorbing panels
  • Laying the carpet
  • Half-height absorbent partitions around the drum kit
  • Volume-limited in-ear monitoring
  • Music-optimized plastic plugs (type C) or even otoplasts suitable for music (type D)

orchestra

In the auditorium, classical music rarely exceeds 80 dB (A). Quite different in the orchestra, because the musicians are exposed to the sound of the instruments on the stage or in the orchestra pit at the shortest possible distance. The total sound exposure from practicing, rehearsals and performances reaches between 85 and 95 dB (A) for all orchestra musicians and sooner or later endangers the hearing. Most orchestral musicians overestimate the stress caused by their colleagues and underestimate the dangers posed by their own instruments. For example, the violin generates a continuous sound level of 90 dB (A) on the violinist's ear.

Tips for orchestral musicians:
  • Targeted practice, if possible piano instead of forte
  • Mutes with monitoring electronics / electronically amplified instruments
  • Reducing the exercise time through mental training (leads to maximum performance and gives security when performing)
  • Keep more distance from loud instruments
  • Height graduation of the orchestra (but at least one meter high steps)
  • Sound screens made of acrylic glass (well thought-out assembly necessary)
  • Otoplastic hearing protectors (type D), if necessary pre-formed plastic plugs (type C)

Typical volume of certain instruments and situations

instrumenttypical sound level
Piano, grand piano, organ80 dB (A)
Keyboards, electric guitars90 dB (A)
Saxophone, trumpets, trombone95 dB (A)
Drums, drum95 dB (A)
situationtypical sound level
Rock concert, in the audience area100 dB (A)
Discotheque, on the dance floor95 dB (A)
Music in the orchestra pit90 dB (A)
Guggenmusig in the practice room 100 dB (A)

Related Links

"Club and party goers in Switzerland" (University of Zurich, 2003)

"Tones instead of drones" - Noise Info 16 (Noise Abatement Unit, Canton of Zurich)

"Music and hearing damage - information for everyone who plays or listens to music" (Suva)