That cranked-up stereo definitely isn’t great for your ears. Adults can safely bear a noise dose of less than 85 decibels for eight hours a day, per the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. And the max amount of time shrinks quickly the louder the noise gets. For instance, adults can tolerate 94 decibels for only one hour before it becomes potentially damaging to their hearing. And the music in some workout classes these days is blasted as loud as 99 decibels, a recent study found.
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That probably won’t tear you away from your favorite class, which is likely only an hour or less. But next time, see if you notice any ringing or buzzing in your ears (a.k.a. tinnitus) after class. If you do, I suggest you start wearing earplugs to prevent any long-term or permanent hearing loss. Earplugs will only muffle the noise, so you should still be able to hear the music. Some studios offer earplugs to clients for free (ask at the front desk), or you can pick up a pack at the drugstore and stash them in your gym bag. And don’t forget to watch the volume if you’re working out on your own and listening to music with headphones. As a rule, if someone near you can hear the music through your headphones, it’s too loud.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.