Friday Rant: The Blaring Hidden Cost of Clubbing

The vast majority of people who read Spend Matters are also likely to be very hard workers. And while working hard doesn't demand that we play hard when we have precious down time, kicking back by going out with friends to venues that have live music, DJ entertainment or simply mind numbing, bone throbbing dance music can provide sorely needed therapeutic escape from the daily rigors of the work week. We also know that such venues can be rather costly. But I'm not referring to cover, ticket or exorbitant fees for drinks.

I know that what I'm about to discuss isn't exotic or exciting, but it is extremely important to be aware of. Plainly stated, I'm talking about decibel levels, and my personal experience is a perfect case in point even if it may not appear so at first. My first career was that of professional musician. Not 60's / 70's garage bands but playing the East coast club circuit with a few famous and more not so famous groups and bands. I typically played at least five nights a week for between four to six hours. These were also the days when each amplified player was responsible for filling the room with their own amps stacked up behind the band. It took decades before some genius -- wish it had been me -- realized that the band only needed stage amplification that could then be pushed out to the venue in front of the band over a dramatically enhanced PA system. The significance of my story is that I and my fellow performers from the 60s, 70s and even early 80s sustained significant hearing damage and loss – going to sleep most mornings with high pitched ringing in our ears that we dismissed as "part of the job."

The bad news for clubbers and loud concert goers, while they may not attend five nights a week, is that contemporary club venues routinely pump out equivalent decibel levels to the ones we were subjected to from those ubiquitous walls of amplification. If you're getting bored about now and thinking that I'm sounding like a parent of teenagers, hang on. The sustained 85 to 100+ decibel level's (equivalent to leaf blowers and passing motorcycles) to which I refer can cause permanent, irrevocable hearing damage and loss, and the long term disability isn't subtle. Thirty years hence, ear plugs often times fail to numb the aural pain I experience when merely attending a DJ'd wedding.

But as the saying goes, "don't take my word for it." Today's New York Time's devotes two and a half full pages to the subject of dangerously high decibel levels in everyday life -- a must read whether you're a clubber or not. Two key take aways from the Times include research that shows increased decibel levels sell more alcohol and "Are we trying to manipulate you? Of course we are, said Jon Taffer, a restaurant and night life consultant and the host of the reality show 'Bar Rescue'."

This is an involved and complex matter with far reaching consequences that I'm only grazing in today's rant. My advice: Frequent small, quiet jazz and folk music clubs and be vigilant with the volume of music you listen to in your car and ear pods as well.

- William Busch

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