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Updated on March 3, 2014

More Mothers Are Speaking Out for Safe Sound

"Due to loud music and generally noisy environments, young people in the United States have a rate of impaired hearing 2.5 times greater than their parents and grandparents, with an estimated 50 million individuals with impaired hearing estimated by 2050." WE Schmid (CBS News)

In the 1970's and 1980's, I was involved in public broadcasting as a music director and program direction of a public radio station. During this time period I learned how to do sound for various musical and public events on public radio. During this time it became apparent that sound and music must be comfortable to the ears. Forty to sixty decibels (db) is a good, comfortable level. If your db level is exceeding this level, hearing impairment is very possible. The person with the most sensitive ears is the one who should be determining the right volume level.

Generally speaking women have better hearing than men because they can hear frequencies many men can not hear. Men tend to work in louder work environments and settings, such as construction. They also frequent loud night clubs more often than women do. There is also another reason women might have better hearing. Over time women have been involved more with childcare than men. Since many women do multiple tasks in the home at the same time (cooking, cleaning and watching children), they need to be able to hear the more subtle sounds and frequencies. Your children may be getting into trouble with a sibling or the family pet. Children may be reaching for an item which causes injury. When your hearing is more attuned to these subtle noises, you develop more of your innate hearing ability. So there may be a practical, evolutionary reason for a women's superiority in the hearing of more frequencies.

Some health effects of loud music and noise are: ear damage (tinnitus), hearing loss and impairment (losing frequencies), headaches and nerve damage. Once damage happens there is little that can be done to restore your hearing. Some other effects are: birth defects, fatigue, stomach ulcers, vertigo and elevated blood pressure.

Children are more sensitive to the health effects of loud noise and music than adults are. Loud noise can effect their ability to learn and carry on conversations with others. Children and babies have thinner skulls than most adults do and are more at risk from the ill effects of loud music and noise. Remember that hearing loss and damage could last all the rest of their lives.

So it pays to do sound right and have it at a reasonable volume level. You get there by establishing a db standard (40-60 db) for the majority of sound in sacred spaces and shows. Putting this standard expectation in the contract with the sound engineers is a good practice. The best sound engineers tend to be in public broadcasting, acoustic, folk and bluegrass, classical, jazz and new age musical styles. These people know how to engineer the best sound because they work with more subtle music sounds and frequencies.

Putting speakers and mikes in the correct locations is crucial to achieving good quality sound . This should come first before adjusting the sound board. It is also important to have the correct speaker size for the room you are in. Using too large of speakers for the space will overwhelm your audience. When adjusting the board it is important to adjust it when people are in the room or space. The levels change every time because the number of people in the space varies, the abilities of the performers and musicians varies and humidity also can vary from time to time. One person should listen while the other person should adjust the board. The most sensitive person is the best one to determine sound levels. Do not put two big speakers close together. You get a magnification factor where sound will be overwhelming in certain locations in the space. You can also get feedback and interference from this practice. Separate speakers several feet away or in opposite directions, away from mikes and other electronic devices (radios, cellphones, etc.) Two mikes which are too close together can cause feed back and interference. Generally, avoid miking violins and drums. They can transmit sound well by themselves. Singers can be overwhelmed by the volume level of these instruments. Only master players who have a light touch with the fingers should be miked. Nothing can replace the human ear when it comes to accomplishing good sound quality. Hold mikes a few inches away from your mouth, so that sound does not distort or become too loud. This is especially true to people who project well.

Lower frequencies can travel longer distances. These lower frequencies can also penetrate walls more easily than other frequencies. Placing speakers away from the walls and floor will be helpful in these situations. You may also need to turn down the volume level.

Bad sound can make it uncomfortable for your audience. When volume levels are too high, it drives away people from attending shows and services. Great, comfortable sound attracts a larger audience and can increase donation levels. It gets around to others that you care about the health of your children. More mothers are speaking out in favor of safe sound. Let your board know you want safe sound!




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