When is Loud too LOUD

I recently worked at a venue that had a DJ playing music for an event for people under the age of about 16. And it reminded me of an article written in the latest edition of CX magazine. It also got me thinking about what we are doing to young developing children and teens by allowing them to be exposed to extreme levels of sound. Where does the duty of care lie? Does it lie with the organisers or the venue? It seems to me that it is the responsibility of both parties. The venue needs to make the client aware that they have a duty of care to their patrons. If the client does not heed this then the venue does need to step into the picture and unfortunately act the heavy. But before things become heavy the venue and the client need to sit down and actually talk through the risks that are involved in having extremely loud music playing for several hours and what control measures can be put into place so that it becomes a win-win situation for all parties. One thing that came up in the CX article and I also noticed was the amount of compression that there was in the audio coming from the DJ’s audio system. The average audio level was much higher than would be if they had a band playing. There were also no breaks; the music was played continuously for three and half hours and at the maximum that the sound system could handle with a little bit of clipping.

I wonder at how many other venues where these youth disco’s happen, how loud do they get and are they monitoring the levels and have in place protocols to minimise the potential for damage to these young ears. And do parents realise how loud these events are and what the possible outcome of damage is. We are aware that hearing loss and damage is irreversible. But are we doing anything to help solve this problem. We need to be proactive as an industry in this area before we get well and truly clamp down upon. We need to act and set levels that are more acceptable and show that overloud does not mean better or good.

If these venues are going to allow excessive volumes from their clients, they need to make sure that certain protocols are in place. Suggested protocols could be a chill out room where patrons could go to get away from the volume and let their ears try and recuperate. Provide a monitoring device so that the client, the venue and DJ can monitor levels. Ear plugs and defenders need to be made readily available, at least by the venue for their staff, or a limiter that does not over compress. And the most drastic measure is a device to cut power once the levels exceed a pre-set level – very draconian and I would hate to be the one to install such a device as it is admitting defeat and we are acting more like police. Now if some of these possibilities cannot be put in to place maybe that venue is not the idea venue for that event. Some venues are not always suitable for all type of events. But if the venue is the only place available well then compromise is then required by all parties. Maybe the event structure could be modified to give some breaks for the ears. Or maybe they could have more live bands, remove the DJ component. Live music having more dynamics and therefor the average level is often lower. This also has the added benefit of employing local bands, showcase up and coming talent and employ more techs.

So the next time you are at your venue grab yourself a dB meter and take some readings during a variety of events and see what average levels you are generating. Below I have included a link to CX magazines SPL calculator. This is a very handy spread sheet that helps you calculate the amount of exposure that you really should be getting compared to what you are really being exposed to. You might be very surprised at the results. I certainly was at this disco event. I should have been there for about fifty minutes and not three and half hours.

SPL Calculator – courtesy of CX magazine

You will also find plenty information on your local OH & S websites. Or follow the links below.

State and Territory Contacts





South Australia



Western Australia

Commonwealth and National Contacts

Commonwealth OHS Contacts

National Contacts


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