Can the music be turned down? Health Council: reduce volume from 103 to 100 decibels at concerts, clubs and pubs

This is evident from the advice ‘Hearing damage due to amplified music’ presented on Wednesday morning. More and more Dutch people suffer from hearing damage. Dutch research shows that about 54 percent of twelve to eighteen year olds are at risk. State Secretary Van Ooijen of Public Health wanted to know from the Health Council how this problem could be tackled.

Hearing damage is caused by listening to loud music often and for a long time during concerts and festivals, or through earphones and headphones.


Often it is a gradual process. This makes it difficult to determine which source of loud noise causes hearing damage. Hearing damage is irreversible and untreatable and has a major impact on people’s quality of life, according to the Health Council.


It can lead to concentration problems, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression. It can also affect learning performance and participation in social life. The most common forms of hearing damage are hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound).


Science shows that any measure that helps to reduce exposure to loud, electrically amplified music leads to a lower risk of hearing damage. The Health Council therefore recommends lowering the maximum volume from 103 to 100 decibels, measured as an average over fifteen minutes.

‘Music experience’

The Netherlands would then be in step with neighboring countries and follow the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO). This also takes into account the ‘importance of music experience’.

In the fight against hearing damage, the government has agreed a covenant with music venues, event organizers and cinemas, among others. It has been agreed that they will adhere to various measures to limit exposure to loud music. The current covenant expires in 2023.

The Health Council wants the measures to also apply to gyms and cafes, for example.

The government has opted for self-regulation. According to the Health Council, ‘a more compelling approach’, such as legislation, may be necessary. “How that should be worked out is up to politicians,” says Health Council chairman Bart-Jan Kullberg.

The Health Council believes that ‘encouraging hearing protection’ should be given priority. The use of earplugs, for example, is recommended by the WHO at 100 decibels, especially with frequent exposure. Kullberg: ,,We know that there is a lot of improvement for wearing hearing protection. In other countries there are obligations to hand out earplugs at certain concerts.”


There are special earplugs with a music filter that dampen the sound in a concert hall or disco by 15 to 20 decibels. It is also important to keep a sufficient distance from the speakers and to take a 15-minute break every now and then if you are in a noisy environment. Also, do not exceed the limit of the volume limiter with earpods.

The Health Council also recommends continuing preventive measures such as monitoring noise levels and providing information.

The volume reduction does not go far enough for patient association Hoormij. It is advocated to reduce the number of decibels at events and concerts to 99, comparable to the standard in Germany. “Preferably even lower. In both cases you still have to wear earplugs. Not everyone knows that.”

According to Hoormij, sounds from 80 decibels can be harmful. Sounds of 120 decibels can directly damage your hearing. How harmful sounds between 80 and 120 decibels are depends on how often and how long you listen to them.

Beeps, hums, hums

About 10 to 15 percent of the population (more than 1.7 million people) suffers from a form of tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears. That is a beep, hum, buzz, whistle or hiss in your head. These sounds can vary from loud to soft, from high to low, from continuous to intermittent.

Tinnitus can be the result of prolonged exposure to (too much) noise, but also of abnormalities in the hearing organ, the brain or the temporomandibular joint. According to Hoormij, it also occurs as a side effect of other disorders or as a side effect of certain medicines. Stress can also play a role.


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