Ask the Expert: When is loud too loud?

These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.Despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information, it’s still nice to consult a parenting expert once in a while to get some new ideas, advice and even a dose of perspective.

At LiveMom, we want to help answer your questions. We have a recurring feature called Ask the Expert, brought to you by The Austin Diagnostic Clinic, that will take on a wide range of subjects. Got a question? Post it below, on our Facebook page or email us and we’ll try to get it answered!

When the weather turns sunny and bright in the spring, people want to get out and play! Many of the outdoor activities that families will attend are outdoor concerts and venues, like Austin’s famous South by Southwest event. Kids out of school for the summer also tend to listen to their MP3 players more frequently and for longer periods.

How safe is the level of the loudness of the music at outdoor concerts?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends an 85 decibel limit of sound intensity with an 8-hour exposure (about the level of a busy street corner ¹), but many outdoor concerts may have a peak intensity of 150 decibels (louder than a jet engine!) and an average intensity of 100 decibels, which is not a safe level if exposure is longer than 15 minutes.

What about MP3 players and other devices?

In a study about MP3 players it was found that some young people listen to music at levels that exceed the weekly noise dose level². One rule of thumb is to set devices at no higher than 60% of maximum volume³. There are a few other quick tests you can use to ensure the level is not too loud: first, when wearing earphones, you should still be able to hear environmental sound around you. Second, if someone standing next to you can hear what you are listening to, the volume is too loud- turn it down!

What should parents do?

There are earmuffs created just for infants and young children attending loud concerts with their parents that can be obtained from a variety of on-line sources such as Amazon. As for MP3 players, teens and children can use head phones or earbuds with volume limiting controls so they can’t turn the volume up to damaging levels. These too, can be obtained by a variety of on-line merchants.

Adults are also encouraged to protect their hearing with foam ear plugs, ear muffs, or custom made ear plugs. At ADC, our Audiology department offers a variety of custom ear plugs for noise protection, including musician’s filtered ear plugs for musicians or teens in school bands.

So, if you or your children use MP3 players or are attending concerts this summer, remember to protect your ears!

Use this handy chart from the American Academy of Audiology as a quick reference on harmful sounds (4):

1 “How do loud sounds damage our hearing?” Dangerous Decibels, N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017
2(Portnuff, C.D., Self-report and long term field measures of MP3 player use: how accurate is self-report. Int.J. Audio.,2013; Feb: 52 Suppl 1:533-540)
3Make Listening Safe. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from
4Turn it to the left! (2011). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from


Janet Davila
Janet Davila
Natalie Rook
Natalie Rook

Janet Davila, AuD, CCC-A and Natalie Rooker, AuD, CCC-A, are audiologists practicing at The Austin Diagnostic Clinic in North Austin.

Both doctors see infants, children and adults in their practice and are accepting new patients as well as most insurance plans.  The Austin Diagnostic Clinic is an independent group of 130 doctors and providers practicing in 21 medical specialties at 9 locations throughout Central Texas since 1952.   Our vision is to be the premier multi-specialty clinic providing compassionate care and excellent service in Central Texas.

For appointments or more information please call 512-901-1111 or visit

Catherine Prystup
About Catherine Prystup 2157 Articles
Catherine Prystup founded out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.

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