The subject of sound causing damage to ears is filled with problems.
One point to know is that most standards for sound levels in the workplace are not based on safety. They are based on whether the person can listen to a sound for a number of hours for a number of years and still understand their spouse when they are told that dinner is ready.
Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but it is mostly true.
Another problem with sound causing hearing problems is that it is not well enough studied – there are too many opinions and not enough consensus. Most experts are still developing tools and techniques for measuring the level in a room accurately and repeatably.
This article is going to be short because it deserves a complete series to explain all the various aspects. But suffice to say, that under most usual circumstances, you could look at the internet all day and you won’t find a real movie theater circumstance that will harm a person’s ears.
For the distance that people sit at, and the amount of amplifiers that it would take to generate the continuous sound level and the movie that kept at it for the hours that it would take…it just isn’t real that there will be a long term problem even after long term continuous – like all day continuous – exposure.
That isn’t to say that it can’t happen or that a person won’t walk out with ringing ears. But ringing ears stop, and if they don’t, one would bet that the person is also experiencing some loud continuous sound somewhere else. Long motorcycle rides or concerts in small spaces or basketball games, all done without ear plugs.
BTW – Ear plugs aren’t a bad idea for someone who is sensitive. It is a much more responsible solution than turning down the sound for everyone. Certainly worth the suggestion.
But again, this can’t be covered in a simple article. It is a changing world out there in the realm of mixing for movies and building sound systems and the science to do it properly. But also again, there are other solutions than turning down the sound for the complete system for the auditorium.
Let’s get the discussion going on this.
Part Nine: Too Loud~! Fixed Already