First Zumba, Now Cycling: What’s Next?
The most recent issue of Audiology Today (November/December 2016) contained a study that evaluated the noise levels of a Zumba© class, as well as the pre/post pure-tone hearing levels of class participants (Gaeta and John, 2016). That study found that “sound levels averaged 91.2 dBA over 60 minutes with peak values up to 101.4 dBA.” These investigators also noted a drop in pure-tone hearing levels (defined as “at least 10 dB in one or both ears for a least one audiometric frequency” tested from 1 kHz-6 kHz) after class in 81 percent of those tested (n=16).
Recently, Sinha et al (2016) published an article evaluating the sound levels of indoor cycling classes (n=17 classes across six different facilities) using a smartphone technology application (SoundMeter Pro for Apple iOS). The mean sound level obtained across the 17 classes was 100.8 dBA, with a maximum peak of 116.7 dBA. The mean time of the exposure was 48.9 minutes. Confirmatory findings were found using dosimetry data collected in 15 of the 17 classes using the same smartphone application. Using National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guidelines (Sriwattanatamma and Breysse, 2000), these classes resulted in a mean exposure almost nine times greater than that recommended for an eight-hour day.
These studies both highlight the fact that leisure activities, like group exercise classes, have the potential to expose participants to hazardous levels of noise. As audiologists, we have a responsibility to educate our patients and the community (e.g., group fitness instructors, facility directors/owners, professional fitness organizations) about such hearing hazards. Gaeta and John (2016) provide some potential suggestions for facilitating this conversation when it comes to group exercise classes. Be sure to check out their article here. Sinha et al (2016) suggest that by using smartphone technology applications “sound exposure may be readily self-monitored, allowing individuals to become active participants in their hearing health and increase the likelihood of protective measures.”
Gaeta L , John A. (2016) Noise-induced hearing loss and leisure activity. Audiology Today 28(6):18–27.
Sinha S, Kozin E, Naunheim M, Barber S, Wong K, Katz L, Otero T, Steganov-Wgner I, Remenschneider A. (2016) Cycling exercise classes may be bad for your (hearing) health. Laryngoscope. Epub ahead of print.
Sriwattanatamma P, Breysse P. (2000) Comparison of NIOSH noise criteria and OSHA hearing conservation criteria. Am J Ind Med 37:334–338.