After months of radio silence, music is finally making its way from nightclub speakers to our eardrums again – no wonder why some of us experience loud noise sensitivity. Our bodies find it difficult to readapt to the vibrant audio scene we inhabited during the pre-pandemic universe.
The world experienced what has been described as “lockdown silence”, where our aural surroundings shifted dramatically. We lost the bustle of beeping cars, the chorus of chatter emitting from restaurants, and the loud parties that went on well into the small hours.
Did our adjustment to perpetual quiet make us more sensitive to sound? Has clubbing gotten louder after lockdown? And what’s the aftermath of the hush being replaced with the blaring dance music we’ve waited for so long?
We can’t deny that our sonic environment has experienced a considerable change. Populations were confined to their homes during lockdown. Naturally, the sounds we had grown accustomed to our whole lives were stripped away.
Studies have shown a clear decrease in environmental noise levels during lockdown.
By restricting people’s outside activities through curfew systems, banning non-essential movement and closing down community spaces, we were subjected to fewer (to zero) external sounds.
But experiencing ringing in your ears after a concert and a club night is not an abnormal occurrence, even in pre-pandemic times. On a scientific level, the phenomenon comes as a side effect of damaged nerve endings in your ears. This process is awakened by one of the things we love the most – loud sound exposure.
Other environmental factors such as your daily subway commute or playing your music too loud have also been found as blameworthy for damaged hearing and loud music sensitivity.
Our brains and bodies are highly adaptable, but when we’ve grown ill-adjusted to loud volumes, it’s unsurprising that we’ll have adverse reactions when we’re re-exposed.
We spoke to audiologist Dr. Julie Glick, who founded Musicians Hearing Solutions about the phenomenon of hearing sensitivity as a result of lockdown. She explains why you might suddenly be feeling like clubbing has gotten louder:
“What was already loud before seems even worse now.”
Our tolerance for higher volumes has gotten lower and our loud noise sensitivity has gotten higher. A side effect of less audio stimulation coupled with the stress induced by the pandemic leaves little room for sonic endurance.
While scientific studies still aren’t conclusive about a factual link between side effects from noise exposure and lockdown quietness, it’s not unlikely to feel overwhelmed.
Feeling like clubbing has gotten louder after lockdown is as much of a psychological effect as a physical one.
Sound is measured in decibels, and limitations over the maximum decibels allowed have been put in place to assure safety in entertainment venues.
One important factor to consider is that the Health and Safety Executive in the UK recommends that continuous sound levels over the duration of an event should not exceed 107 decibels, while peak sound pressure should not exceed 140 decibels.
But clubs and gigs can often reach 110 decibels.
When exposure to such loud noises is experienced for hours, the aftermath can leave you with ringing in your ears for hours – sometimes even longer.
Dr. Glick asserts that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards should be followed by employers to ensure healthy conditions for both their employees and customers.
Just like everything that raises your dopamine levels, it should be done in moderation.
“The longer you’re doing something, the more harm it can cause.”
The longer you’re exposed to the thumping bass at nightclubs, the more likely they are to cause damage to your hearing.
Even in regular circumstances, Dr. Glick suggests that audiophiles attending live music events should take precautions to look after their wellbeing.
“Regular clubbers should be proactive about their health. There are many products catered to customized sound solutions to make your listening experience safer – and more enjoyable.”
Ultimately, you’re likely to experience loud music sensitivity thanks to noise disturbances, after adjusting to the long quiet of lockdown.
Realizing how your body adapts to your surroundings is important if you want to enjoy a night out. That is, of course, without being hounded by constant ear ringing or feeling like you’re drowning in the soundwaves.
So maybe it isn’t true that clubbing has gotten louder after lockdown, but it’s definitely worth realizing what you can and can’t handle after being quiet for so long.