In their recently published study, Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers measured the loudness of the music played during spin classes. They found that the music is so loud, it exceeded the federally-recommended safe exposure to noise for an entire workday.
The CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended a maximum daily exposure of 15 minutes to any noise that is louder than 100 A-weighted decibels (dBA). Any longer would risk damaging the fragile ear and causing loss of hearing.
The 15 spin classes covered by the study produced noises as loud as 113 dBA. Each class ran for 45 minutes.
The findings are not just limited to spin classes. It also encompasses gyms and aerobics classes, both of which are known to be very noisy at times. (Related: A simple solution may preserve hearing loss caused by loud noises.)
For their study, the Harvard researchers used commercially available smartphones to measure the noise exposure of spin class participants. The mobile devices ran free apps that could evaluate the noise levels with a fair amount of accuracy.
The apps were developed for people who are worried about the noise levels in their workout places. When such an app is running, the smartphone will warn its user if the noise is too much for humans to bear for long safely.
The spin classes involved cycling exercises. During each session, individual researchers placed themselves at various random locations. The built-in microphones of their mobile devices took in the sounds for the noise-measuring app to evaluate.
While their data indicated unhealthy levels of noise exposure, the researchers also noted that the noise levels might be even worse than believed. Their microphones could have been affected by shadowing effects of the exercise equipment, which could block or muffle sound waves that would otherwise reach the measuring devices.
They plan to conduct a follow-up study where the participants will wear microphones near their ears. This set-up would be much more similar to the human ear.
Spin classes are just one source of toxic noise. It is not even the most common one. Everyday life in the modern urban environment exposes people to loud noises. The hearing damage from each of these sources piles up, going unnoticed until it is too late to avert the loss of hearing.
"Because if one person works a noisy job or rides a motorcycle or shoots firearms… they're going to be more at risk than somebody who works in a quiet office all week long," warned Deanna Meinke, the co-director of the public health campaign Dangerous Decibels. "So people have to think about it in terms of their own overall exposure, not just in that one class."
This suggests that exercise instructors are even more vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss than their students. Because they make a living from this, the instructors are present in multiple classes each day. They are exposed to unhealthy noise levels for much longer periods.
Meinke recommends spin class participants to either turn down the volume of the music, wear earplugs and other forms of ear protection, or look for other locations where you can exercise without popping your eardrums.
Find out how to get the most out of your physical exercise at Slender.news.