Exercising your heart while protecting your ears

People Exercising on Stationary Bikes

Millions of people begin a new exercise program when the new year starts. If you’re planning to kick start your fitness this year, you’re not alone.

As a successful strategy for losing weight and getting in shape, exercise is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. But is there a way you can exercise and protect your ears at the same time?

Your favorite exercise classes are too loud

Many people need motivation and encouragement, and exercise classes can be a great way to get both of those.

However, there is a downside to exercise classes. Over the past few years, audiologists began to see more and more people with tinnitus and hearing loss after consistently loud fitness classes.

Spinning, dance classes, circuit training, and boxing classes are great for your heart, but the noise levels these classes obtain are damaging to your ears.

Instructors turn up music in these classes to levels that are harmful to your ears. Noise levels in these classes are often measured at 85-100 dBs, which is well over a safe noise level.

This can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears that many people experience after loud noises. The hearing loss and the tinnitus may or may not go away, but many times they are permanent.

Noise exposure is 100% preventable. It is important to be aware of how often you are around noise, as well as how loud it is.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established recommended exposure limits (REL) to protect people from the adverse effects of noise.

The REL for noise exposure is 85 decibels for an 8-hour period. This level of noise or more is considered to be hazardous and is at a level of 100% for a noise dose. The dose varies depending on the intensity of the sound. The higher the intensity of the sound, the shorter the amount of time a person can be exposed to the sound before reaching their noise dose. When this noise dose is reached, it causes hearing damage.

Consider the chart below showing time and intensity of the sound.

Time of exposure to 100% noise dose                                 Intensity of sound

8 Hours                                                                                                          85 dB
4 Hours                                                                                                          88 dB
2 Hours                                                                                                          91 dB
1 Hour                                                                                                            94 dB
30 Minutes                                                                                                    97 dB
15 Minutes                                                                                                     100 dB

Most people do not reach these levels on a daily basis; however, most fitness classes will reach these levels. We need to be aware of how loud a sound is and how long we are exposed to that sound.

Hearing protection can be customized and extremely comfortable for long term use. Additionally, good hearing protection will protect your ears from the loud sounds, while still allowing you to hear conversation or music.

In order to protect your hearing while also getting in your exercise, there are a few things you should try.

Speak up

Turning down the volume in the first place goes a long way toward reducing the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. If the music seems too loud, consider asking the instructor before class begins or during a break to lower the volume.

If that is uncomfortable or not an option, look at different gyms and fitness studios. They each have different types of instructors and classes that will fit your needs.

Use Hearing Protection

Be sure to keep earplugs in your car or gym bag, that way you will always have them available. They’re small enough to fit in your ear but effective enough to help soften the loudest sounds while still allowing you to hear.

Inexpensive varieties are available at most pharmacies. Consider a customized set from your local audiologist to help ensure a secure fit during high-intensity exercise.

Stay away from the sound source

The closer you are to the sound source, the harder it is on your ears, so try to pick a spot as far away from the speakers as possible.

That can be harder to do in a smaller room — especially if speakers are along the wall and the ceiling, too — but every bit of space between you and the source of the sound can make a difference.

To find out if you have hearing loss and can be helped by one of our audiologists, call and schedule an appointment with an audiologist at SightMD. With 23 convenient locations, there’s a SightMD office that will fit in your busy life!

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