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The biggest workout mistake you might be making

Boom

A photo posted by Andi (@todayinthecity) on

…is not protecting your ears.

If your favorite workout class blasts the music to the point where you’d have to yell to hear the person next to you, your eardrums may be taking a serious beating. Unlike our muscles, which get stronger and stronger after cycles of breakdown and rebuilding, our eardrums don’t respond to damage so well.

Currently, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that the maximum sound level we can take before damage starts to happen is somewhere around 90 decibels.  In most cases, hearing loss is caused by sustained or frequent exposure to high decibel levels over time. If the sound is loud enough, however, damage can happen much faster. Even 15 minutes of exposure of to decibel levels over 100, may be enough to cause permanent damage (by damaging hair cells of the inner ear).

How loud is too loud? Beyond the number, let your rule of thumb be that if it feels uncomfortable, it’s too loud.  If the volume causes your eardrums to feel painful, if your ears are ringing after exposure, or if you have to yell or scream to speak to the person right next to you, the “too loud” limit has been reached.

What can you do about it? If you see earplugs offered at the workout spot you’ve chosen, take them. That means they’ve either had or anticipate complaints about the volume. USE THE EARPLUGS.  If there aren’t earplugs handy and you think that the volume is exceptionally high, let the instructor know that you’d appreciate them taking it down a notch. In the long-run, your instructor is the most at risk of anyone in the class if she constantly blasts at ear-numbing levels.

If you’re curious, there are plenty of free apps that function as decibel meters to give you a (somewhat) accurate instant reading.