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As pop icon Taylor Swift continues her Eras Tour, some Swifties are taking their ear health into their own hands.
She's not alone, as dozens of videos on the app recommend the same thing. On TikTok, the hashtag #earplugs has garnered more than 258 million views.
Yahoo Canada spoke to an expert who says hearing loss is common among young Canadians who attend loud events.
Although Swift hasn't announced any shows in Canada, the country's biggest music festival of the year — Osheaga — is just around the corner.
Here's everything you need to know about keeping your ears healthy and safe.
What is a 'safe' sound level?
According to Navid Shahnaz, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia School of Audiology, safe listening levels depend on three things: intensity (loudness), duration (length of time) and frequency (how often) of the exposure.
"It's crucial for individuals to be aware of safe listening practices to protect their hearing health," he said in an email.
Shahnaz explained in Canada the legal steady sound level for an eight-hour work shift is typically capped at 85 dBA (decibels).
"To calculate the allowed maximum exposure time, an exchange rate is used, and most experts recognize the three [decibel] exchange rate," he said. "This means that the allowed exposure time is halved for every three [decibel] increase in noise level."
For example, exposure to 85 dBA for eight hours is equivalent to exposure to 88 dBA for four hours.
Shahnaz said most personal audio devices have a range of 75 to 105 dBA, while clubs and bars can range from 104 to 112 dBA. Pop concerts can range higher.
These are the industry-permissible sound levels and times of exposure considered safe:
82 dBA: 16 hours
85 dBA: 8 hours
88 dBA: 4 hours
91 dBA: 2 hours
94 dBA: 1 hours
97 dBA: 30 minutes
100 dBA: 15 minutes
103 dBA: 7.5 minutes
106 dBA: 3.75 minutes
109 dBA: 1.88 minutes
112 dBA: 0.94 minutes
115 dBA: 28.12 seconds
For reference, one TikToker said her phone measured sound levels of 106 dBA during Swift's Arlington, Texas concert — a level with a safe exposure time of just under four minutes. The Eras Tour concerts last three hours on average.
"Swifties don't let Swifties go to the Eras Tour without ear protection!" user Mary Tyler Morgan captioned her post.
The self-proclaimed Swiftie said she wore ear plugs to the concert, and wrote "you could hear everything the whole show."
According to Shahnaz, loud music is one of the leading causes of hearing loss from outside factors in children, adolescents and adults.
Loud concerts can have a long-term impact on hearing... This damage can lead to permanent hearing loss over time.Navid Shahnaz
"Loud concerts can have a long-term impact on hearing," he said.
"Prolonged exposure to high sound levels, such as those experienced at music festivals, can damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear responsible for hearing."
The damage can lead to permanent hearing loss over time, he added.
How common is hearing damage from concerts?
Approximately one in four Canadians aged 20 to 79 have hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise, according to the Canadian Hearing Society.
Shahnaz explained young adults and working-age individuals "are more vulnerable due to increased exposure to loud music, concerts and noisy environments."
Shahnaz said hearing loss can lead to severe consequences for "physical and mental well-being, education and future job opportunities."
A 2022 study estimated up to 1.35 billion young people, between the ages of 12 and 35, are at risk of losing their hearing due to the use of personal listening devices and going to loud entertainment venues.
"It's important to note that the risk of hearing damage due to noise exposure is cumulative over time," Shahnaz explained.
"Younger individuals who engage in loud activities regularly may experience hearing loss earlier in life, while older individuals may already have age-related hearing loss, making them more susceptible to additional noise-induced damage."
Continued exposure to loud environments or events, even in later years, can further exacerbate hearing loss.Navid Shahnaz
According to Shahnaz, hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise is usually irreversible — but 100 per cent preventable.
"The hair cells in the inner ear do not regenerate, which means that once they are damaged, the hearing loss is permanent," he claimed.
Hearing damage is preventable: How to stay safe?
The first piece of advice the expert offered to those attending music festivals or loud concerts — particularly attendees who want to protect their ear health — is using hearing protection devices, such as ear plugs.
Shahnaz said there are ear plugs designed specifically for events like concerts, that reduce the volume of sound while preserving sound clarity. One of those include the Loop ear plugs available on Amazon.
"It's crucial to wear them consistently during the entire event, especially if close to the speakers," he said.
Hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise is usually irreversible but 100 per cent preventable.Navid Shahnaz
Additionally, Shahnaz advised taking breaks from the loud environment and moving to quieter areas.
As for event organizers, implementing noise level regulations and providing designated quiet zones can also promote ear health — and protect attendees from excessive noise exposure.
For those who have attended a loud event, Shahnaz said they may experience "signs of hearing damage."
These can include:
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Muffled or distorted hearing
Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments
The expert said if these symptoms persist for more than a day or two after the event, "seeking medical attention from an audiologist is essential."