The ear is a very delicate instrument. Hearing loss can happen after long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise induced hearing loss (NICL) to happen. Below 75 decibels is generally considered a safe sound level.
I have hearing loss in one ear and occasionally find it frustrating when I miss the end of a phrase or have to follow someone’s lips to try and make out the words. It’s the softer or higher frequency sounds that are muffled. I frequently have to move nearer to the person speaking in order to hear.
I cringe when I overhear the younger generation talk about how their ears are still ringing the next day after attending a concert. My husband is a music instructor and he carefully guards his ears from excessive volumes of noise because he knows how important it is not only for his teaching, but for his musicianship and personal enjoyment to be able to hear.
This week I had a senior woman approach me in church and express her concern about the volume of the music and the possibility that babies and young children could be suffering hearing loss by being subjected to the worship music. I had never really thought about this before. I know that I have been in worship services where the decibel level of the music would require safety gear in an industrial environment.
Although I have a concern about the babies, I am actually more concerned at the moment about this dear woman. She was clearly distressed about this matter and had not known to whom she should turn. Here is a “mother in Israel” speaking from her heart, yet no one is listening.
On an occasion when I spoke to a pastor about the volume of the music his response was simply, “The young people like it loud.”
One Sunday I commented to an usher that the music was loud this Sunday. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a packet of earplugs and handed them to me. This is how we are to cope with our discomfort in worship services.
I have brought my own earplugs, but find it awkward when I have to remove them to greet people or take them out during prayer and then have to put them back in again. It’s something I don’t really want people to notice me doing.
There is a difference between preferring it loud, and finding the volume physically distressing to the point of needing to use ear plugs to get relief. On more than one occasion I have had to leave the service because the beat of the bass caused my heart to lose it’s natural rhythm and I feared I might end up in Emergency. Thankfully my heartbeat returned to normal shortly after I left the sanctuary.
Some attendees solve this problem of uncomfortably loud music by coming to church after the singing. A woman told me that her husband, who is an usher, has seen many people walk out because of the volume of the music, even newcomers to the church. The sad thing is that some never come back.