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Why are festivals and cinema films so extremely loud?

Why don't festivals and clubs just turn the music down? Then you don't need earplugs. Unfortunately, there is something more involved than a swing at the volume knob.

Covenant Prevention of Hearing Damage in the Music Sector
Due to the covenant that was concluded at the beginning of 2014, more and more attention is being paid to hearing damage while going out. Not surprisingly, this can also count on a critical note. Agreements have been made in the agreement to reduce the risk of hearing damage, for example by offering earplugs. It can get really tough, especially at festivals. But the set limit of 103 dB without hearing protection can still be harmful within a few minutes.

Why don't they turn the volume down?

  • Screaming people

The answer is simple: then you (almost) no longer hear the music. NIMBY complainants will be very surprised at this because they can still hear the sound from miles away. But it's not just the music that makes noise. Certainly a larger audience also makes a lot of noise. People chat, move, toast, sing, the wind blows and that makes noise. If you consider that a conversation is easily 60 dB, just imagine how many decibels a whole group of people chatting at the same time. The music has yet to rise above this.

  • Special speakers

In addition, with larger stages you still want to hear the music well in the back. The sound is therefore made louder in the front, making it louder there. You prevent this by placing a lot of small speakers around the audience instead of a number of large speakers in front. That way there is better sound distribution. For many organizers, however, this is financially but also not practically feasible. 

  • Concert halls

In the above points there is a difference between festivals and concert halls or pop venues. At open air festivals the sound disappears, while concert halls and music venues often have very good sound insulation. It is also much more about good acoustics, which is less feasible with open-air stages. Indoors, the music can therefore be turned down more easily.

  • Endorphins

And then there's the subjective argument that people want to feel the bass in their body. The volume is part of the experience with certain styles such as techno, metal and hardstyle and you don't feel that when the music is soft. In addition, it has been scientifically proven that your body produces endorphins when listening to loud music. Endorphins are a substance that our brains produce and that has a pain-suppressing effect. Endorphins are partly responsible for the development of a happy feeling.


The silent disco where everyone has headphones with the music on could offer a solution. But there is also a danger here because you can put the headphones themselves way too loud . In short, there is not yet an unambiguous solution, in which everyone can be satisfied and where everyone can enjoy the music safely and carefree. Until then, wearing earplugs like the PartyPlug Pro is still the best solution.


How about cinema?

Going to the cinema is often a good way to spend a night out; the enormous screen and the sound can make it an intense experience. However, the experience is quite intense in some cinemas. The experience is determined by the combination of vision and sound, but one question which arises very frequently nowadays is why is the sound so loud.

When you ask around, you will hear that quite a few people have been exposed to very loud cinema films. For some people, the sound level in cinemas is so high that they leave the cinema before the film has finished, or simply never return to the cinema. The sound level of animated cartoons or romantic comedies is usually OK, but as soon as a bit of action happens, the sound level goes up. Think, for example, of James Bond films, “The Hunger Games” or “Mad Max: Fury Road”. The high sound level of the films is not only unpleasant, it can also result in hearing loss. A few years ago during a showing of the film “Inception”, a girl suffered hearing loss. Peaks of 118 dB were measured during this film. This is comparable with a fighter jet flying over. Even during a film such as Frozen, which is seen by many young children, the sound level reached 98 dB. In this way, an evening at the cinema may be a treat for your eyes, but certainly not a treat for your ears.

So are there any regulations on the sound level in cinemas?
It may surprise you, but most countries do not have any regulations in place for the maximum number of decibels in cinemas. Joan Allen, the Vice-President of Dolby Laboratories, the company responsible for the sound of most films, explained that part of the problem lies with the filmmakers. Dolby recommends that the sound level be set at what is referred to as “fader level 7”. Cinemas know that audiences often find this too loud, and therefore set the sound level at 5/6. In response, filmmakers turn up the sound level of their films. So that can result in the final sound level still being very high.

Fortunately, there’s no reason to avoid cinemas all together. If you are thinking of seeing, for example, the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” soon, take adequate precautions and bring along a set of earplugs. This will allow you to enjoy the film (and sound) in such a way that you will not walk out afterwards with a ringing sound in your ears. If you like taking your children to the cinema, a set of special children’s earplugs is a good idea.

We wonder, do you ever wear earplugs in a cinema?