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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 16:48 GMT
Deaf trap for noise-hit clubbers
Boy has ears tested
Future generations could be dancing to deafness
test hello test
BBC's Eye On Wales
News Online follows a noisy investigation

Clubs and pubs may be turning into deaf traps for young revellers exposed to dangerously high noise levels.

A growing mass of research is showing a night out clubbing, going to a pop concert or pub with loud music could be enough to ruin your hearing for life.

With a 300% rise in the number of young people painting the town red over the last two decades, permanent ear drum damage could be taking place.

Clubbed to deaf: Noise levels are rising more
And many of the clubberati may be ignorant to the effects of their demand to drive up the decibels in pursuit of a heightened dance experience.

Professor Adrian Davies at the Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham says the number of people suffering tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, has increased dramatically.

It usually clears up the day after a night on the tiles, but is a sign of more serious impending damage to hearing.

Cardiff-based NME journalist Louis Patterson says the crossover of dance clubs to the mainstream points to a worrying health trend.

Changing times

With every high street peppered with a host of new superclubs, tastes have changed.

But the capacity of ears has not, and many experts fear the current generation will suffer serious hearing loss in their 30s and 40s which they should not experience until their 60s.

It's like spilling vinegar on an open cut on your hand; it's that physical

Paul Grey
Many will suffer from permanent tinnitus which, in severe cases drive sufferers to suicide.

Eye On Wales tailed Swansea's council environmental health officers on a typical night out in the city to test noise levels.

Virtually all the dancefloors tested measured close to 100db - well above the 85db "danger zone" level.

For every three decibels above that maximum, the time revellers can safely spend exposed to music falls by half before damage kicks in like a bass drum.

At Zanzi0bar, managed by Cardiff brewers chain Brains, levels of 104db were recorded.

In their defence, club managers said they had special chill-out areas to ease the pressure on eardrums, but none thought tougher legislation or a reduction in volume was the answer.

Bassist injuries

Years of exposure to loud thumping on tour has taken its toll on Paul Grey, former bassist with Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Damned, and UFO, now in his 40s.

"My hearing is so sensitive it's affected my social life," he said.

Stereophonics' Kelly Jones
Kelly Jones wears earplugs to protect from loud music
"I can't go to pubs , even quiet ones, because even the clinking of the glasses can be painful - it's like spilling vinegar on an open cut on your hand; it's that physical.

"And of course the ringing in my years is constant and permanent - it can drive you a bit crazy sometimes."

Patterson of the New Musical Express agrees: "I have mild tinnitus and my doctor has advised me to wear earplugs, which obviously can be difficult in my job.

"I think most young people's reaction when they realize they have permanent hearing damage is disbelief.

"You'd think your hearing would stand up a lot better - know I did.

Indeed, club-goers and reviewers are joined by DJs and rock stars themselves in their susceptibility.

But Andrew Shiach of Hearing Healthcare Practice, which specialises in earplugs and monitors for musicians, says dedicated followers of fashion are reluctant to look out of place.

"Most artist around the world wear some sort of protection; we supply bands like the Stereophonics," he said.

"Many DJs are also now wearing earplugs. The Stereophonics are very happy to work with us to raise awareness, but generally no-one really want to talk about it because admitting you wear plugs just isn't considered cool."

Listeners beware

Ultimately, however, it is the artists' followers who are most at risk.

The National Union of Students in Wales is concerned enough for its membership to be launching an awareness campaign in March.

Regional disability officer Natasha Hirst, deaf from birth, says: "People are just not aware how damaging loud noise can be.

"Students often go out two or three times a week - we want them to take better care of themselves.

"You can't stop people going out to have a good time, but they should take regular breaks every thirty minutes, keep away from the speakers, and wear earplugs.

"Otherwise, they are running a big risk of damaging their hearing and, from personal experience, I know how hard that can make your life.

"I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

Eye On Wales is broadcast on BBC Radio Wales, 1800 GMT Wednesday - 93-96 & 104 FM, 882 & 657 AM, online and on digital satellite channel 867.
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