HOUSTON – Have you ever gone to the movies and it's been so loud you wanted to leave?
We know a lot of you are heading to the theaters this holiday season, so health reporter Haley Hernandez went in to test how loud it really is.
She downloaded a free decibel meter app on her phone, packed up a professional sound level meter and headed to see if she experienced the same issue as movie goer Theresa Rogers.
Rogers said the last time she went to the movies, “The ads started to roll and they were loud. So, we sat there for a while and then I got up and went and asked someone at the front if they could turn the volume down. They said they would do something and I went and sat back down and when the movie started it was still loud. So, we just, we just left and got our money back.”
Ironically, Rogers works in a library, but she says she suffers from hearing loss and the movie she saw was still uncomfortably loud.
“When we got home, we turned our television volume up all the way just to see how that would compare and the movie theater was still much louder than the maximum volume on our television,” Rogers said.
Inside the theater, Hernandez found the average decibel (DB) reading to be 94 DB.
Above 80 is not recommended. Hours of exposure to high DB can lead to permanent hearing loss. According to audiologist Ross Tonini, above 100 is too high.
“If we're at 100 DB, you can be in 100 DB for 15 minutes. You can be in 110 or 109 for less than 2 minutes,” he said.
Tonini said the volume level in the theater can peak to dangerous levels, but in order to do permanent damage, you would have to endure that for many hours-- think jet engine workers or musicians.
“It can be difficult with a sound level meter to really, you know, you'll be able to see the peaks, you'll be able to see the car explodes, the gun battle ensues, the cannons are blasting and you will see these big spikes and numbers. Again, they can be dangerous, again it's a function of how long are you exposed to it,” Tonini said.
He said as hearing degenerates, noise volume in bars, restaurants and movies starts to amplify and cause discomfort faster than it does in someone who has perfect hearing. Which might be why people with hearing loss have less tolerance for loud environments.
When comparing the professional DB reader to the phone app, Tonini gave his stamp of approval.
“I think just, ‘Is this a safe place or a dangerous place?’ I think it's perfectly adequate to give you that information,” he said.
Rogers said she's willing to give it a try.
“It would be interesting to see how much, how likely are you to be damaging your ears when you're in a situation like that. Yeah, I’d be curious to know,” she said.
Tonini said over-the-counter hearing protection can help slightly reduce noise volume.