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Loud exercise classes may affect your hearing

People work out to stay in shape, but could your exercise routine cause you to lose your hearing?
November 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
People work out to stay in shape, but could your exercise routine cause you to lose your hearing?

Workouts help make fitness gains, but loud music may have you losing your hearing -- and fast. It literally made a first-time cycling student ill.

"I thought about leaving but I wanted to give it a try. But afterwards, I didn't feel well, I felt dizzy," said Mandev Khalsa of Santa Monica. "The noise level was awful."

Dr. John Goddard of the House Research Institute says the higher the decibel, or dB level, the shorter amount of time you ear can adapt.

"Loud noise exposure over prolonged periods of time or shorter periods of time , if it's excessive noise, can be damaging to the ear," said Goddard.

Not only is hearing loss painless, once lost, it won't come back. I attended six group exercise classes in Los Angeles and Orange counties to measure sound levels and got surprising results. Most registered in the 90 to 100 dB range -- think lawn mower or helicopter.

The worst I discovered was an indoor cycling studio at 106 decibels. Think about this: it's about 45 minutes of a sound of a jackhammer or chainsaw.

"You're there more than three minutes at that level, you're causing damage -- no question," said Goddard.

Health educator Marilee Pothoff downloaded a free app measuring dB's to check her gym's cycling class.

"The decibel level was turned up louder and louder. By the time that it peaked, it was around 109 decibels," said Pothoff.

The American Council on Exercise says sound levels for group exercise classes should be in the 70 to 80 decibels range, which is often ignored.

"We actually do get used to the level and we kind of get numb to the level of the music, so we then think, 'Oh, it needs to be louder,'" said Madeline Lewis, Spectrum Clubs group exercise coordinator.

But it doesn't. Lewis says Spectrum Clubs put a diffuser on stereos to keep instructors honest, yet other popular gyms and cycling studios are literally at rock concert levels.

Keep in mind OSHA safety regulations require anything over 85 decibels at a workplace mandatory for workers to wear protective head gear.

But unsuspecting students are unaware of the consequences of blasting music, especially baby boomers looking to stay in shape.

"I see more and more and hear more and more people telling me that the music is too loud," said Lewis.


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