How to help your ears survive festival season

Published: 17 July 2014 at 15:46

Leading audiologist Professor David Baguley reveals his top tips for the summer

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As bands turn it up to 11 at music festivals this summer, a leading audiologist has revealed his common-sense tips for looking after number one!

Music festivals are now a firm fixture of the British summer and more than 700 took place last year, catering for a range of tastes and ages.

However, loud music can pose a serious risk to our hearing and is one of the main causes of tinnitus, which is commonly known as “ringing in the ears”.  In most cases tinnitus is temporary, but can cause uncomfortable symptoms, with those suffering complaining of constant whistling, humming or buzzing sounds.

Professor David Baguley says that mixing alcohol with loud music is a particular danger as alcohol reduces the inner ear’s natural protection mechanism. 

Professor Baguley, of Anglia Ruskin University and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, has set out his five tips for safeguarding your hearing this summer.

Get in place

It isn’t always easy to pick a favourite spot at a festival, but avoiding being close to the speakers shouldn’t be too hard.  It always used to be said that the best sound at any event is close to the mixing desk, and whilst that may be less true of an outdoor event than an inside gig, a spot in the middle of the crowd makes sense.

Hearing Protection

Many people find that standard foam earplugs take too much of the sound away for a festival to be fun, but there are inexpensive musicians earplugs available that remove 20 decibels of the music, so that it is still loud enough to be enjoyed – but safe.  One brand is Etymotic ER-20 earplugs, designed by an audiologist, and a pair of these will cost less than £10 via internet retailers.

Take a break

Risk to hearing not only comes from how loud sound is, but how long you listen for.  A general rule is to take a break of a few minutes in every hour of listening.  This can happen between acts, and is the natural rhythm of many festivals, but there are some situations (DJ sets for example) where you may need to intentionally take a break from the music.

Avoid over intoxication and music

Over-intoxication increases the risk of acquiring hearing loss and tinnitus.  One factor is that you are more likely to take foolish risks with sound when drunk, but it also seems that alcohol may decrease the inner ear’s natural protection mechanisms, making it more vulnerable to noise damage as the cochlear hair cells are repeatedly exposed to intense sound.

Get help early

If you are concerned that you may have damaged your hearing or acquired tinnitus through noise exposure, then don’t delay seeking advice and help.  Your GP is a good first port of call, and the British Tinnitus Association ( offers helpful resources for coping and self-help.