Can Children Develop Hearing Loss at Church?

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Recently I attended a church service featuring a praise band. The music levels were extremely high, at least in the area I was sitting. I noticed a number of very young children down front dancing on the floor in front of the stage. My attention was drawn to several of the children who were holding fingers in their ears, obviously blocking the loudness of the music.

Sometimes I carry a decibel meter with me when I visit churches because the trend in many contemporary, praise band style music churches, is to have the music as loud as can be tolerated. I did not bring my meter that day which I now regret. In my estimation, the music at times exceeded 95 decibels, a level which can cause hearing damage and ultimately loss, especially in younger children.

In a recent article “How Loud Is Your Church” , sound engineer Leon Sievers provides operating parameters for church sound systems.

“I recommend operating your church sound system at no more than 80dB peak during worship and averaging 65-70dB during the service. Sound Pressure Levels, which exceed these parameters, will cause ear fatigue, loss of concentration and potential hearing damage.”

Hearing loss rates among the young are accelerating. This is well documented in technical literature. Audio people at churches are often volunteers who may be adjusting the sound to meet their tastes, not understanding is effect on those most vulnerable. The peak decibel number I hear church audio folks most frequently cite is 90-95 decibels. This is clearly too loud for children, and many others, such as the elderly. Possibly a few legal challenges might focus pastors and church boards on the seriousness of this issue.

Pastors concerned about a lack of concentration among parishioners, during their sermons, may need to look no further than their praise bands for the reason. A rising chorus of worshipers is documenting their lack of ability to concentrate after periods of loud music. The church I attended recently performed approximately 45 minutes of extremely loud music that day.

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