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Hearing damage from bass

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May 9, 2008 9:22:26 PM

Is it possible to get hearing damage from loud bass? Do low frequency sounds do less damage than high frequency sounds at the same decibel level? I've just never felt my ears disturbed by loud bass, so that's why I'm asking.

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May 9, 2008 9:28:39 PM

all nerves can be damaged by loud sound AFAIK, the only thing is you really won't notice it that much due to so little occuring around those frequencies. it is really only the high ones and mid range i.e vocals that you will notice it.
May 29, 2008 9:30:56 AM

Any frequency sound will damage your hearing. You notice bass less, as our ears are less sensitive to it.

This is also why hearign damage from bass goes relatively unnoticed - if hi/mid soudns are too loud, we turn down the volume, but our ears are less sensitive to low frequencies, so we may be doing damage, and not realise it.

I do a lot of PA/staging work, and Bass is DEFINTELY just as destructive as highs/mids. Highs/mids will hurt straight away, but bass notes tend to take a while to have an effect - nausea, disorientation, discomfort.

In fact, due to the wavelength, a bass note has a lot more power at the same level as high frequency sounds.

When you get hearing damage, loss of bass perception is usually not noticed due to its subtlety, and our ear's insensitivity to it. In any case, most adults can't hear low bass frequencies well anyway, but they do physically feel it, which "makes up" for it.
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June 6, 2011 6:56:40 PM

I've been thinking a lot about this recently. I would argue that higher frequency noises cause more damage than lower frequencies.

I think that saying our ears are 'less sensitive' to lower frequencies is a bit vague. As for the comment: "due to wavelength, a bass note has a lot more power at the same level as high frequency sounds," I don't quite see the logic (or perhaps know the physics?) of your argument.

'Loudness,' or decibel readings, are a measurement of the movement of air particles caused by the sound vibrations. The more intense the vibration, the bigger the amplitude of movement for the air particles -- translating into a louder noise. Now, think about frequencies (measured in Hertz=oscillation/second). A 30 Hz noise (bass frequency) means that the particles being oscillated by the vibrations will influence your eardrum 30 times per second. Higher end frequencies (10,000+ Hz) influence the ear 10,000 times per second.

Does the military use high-frequency noises in their audio weapons or low-frequency? The answer is high. The damage happens faster, constantly.

Think of loud bass noises like a light cigarette. There's no such thing as a 'safe loud noise.'

June 7, 2011 3:29:28 AM

see, some of the confusion here is pretty simple.

our ears are sensitive to a frequency area.
and if you attack that sensitivity, you will cause damage at an alarming rate.
but
dont be fooled by all bass, because each 30hz can have a different octave.
lower octaves are usually not the ones to cause pain.. but the sound pressure usually jumps up quite high with these lower octaves.
the sound pressure can push on the ear drum with more force, and that can cause a loss of hearing.

probably use your best judgement when determining if the sound is safe or harmful.
the only thing i would suggest, if you havent ever heard the difference between harmful and harmless.. maybe you are already insensitive with your ears.
and this might lead you to losing some more hearing IF you cause damage without consciously knowing about it.


also.. some times the loss of hearing is all in your head.
as if your body tries to grow and adapt to the loudness to prevent itself from serious unchanging damage.
some people can go without the loudness for quite a while and get their sensitivity back.
other people have used 'tuning forks' tapped onto their skull to regain their hearing.
and some go as far as using hypnosis to bring their hearing back.

it is all about the nerves.
a nerve can grow insensitive.. but a damaged nerve takes a lot of surgery and such to bring it back to health.
if your brain is simply allowing the nerves to 'relax' .. then there is usually a chance that the brain can be 'trained' to un-relax the nerves.

practice with one of the smaller sewing needles hitting the ground.
that is what i was taught as a child.
it worked pretty darn good.
i got the ability to focus deeply onto the sound, and the more i focused.. the more louder the sound became.

see.. when your nerves are 'relaxing' it is like a form of attention deficit disorder of the eardrums.
not the same as damaged nerves.

some people who cant walk know this already.
their nerves are damaged, so they cant be woken up.. that is why they cant feel their feet enough to walk.
(it is kinda like having your whole leg fall asleep from laying on your side and trying to walk on it, except usually without the tingling.. because the tingling is the electricity going through the nerves, indicating that they are awake.
but
sometimes the tingling only shows that some of the nerves are awake and not enough of them to full stand on the foot.

just give the needle ONE drop to take a note of it.
if you feel that the sound wasnt loud enough, you could take a break from the loud audio and train yourself to focus more.
you might go up and down quite a few times in your life before old age kicks in and you dont know if it is old age or damage from listening to that needle.
it is possible that your brain gets 'angry' and gives up because you are trying to focus in on the soft sounds too much, and then going out and ruining all of that training.
again, it doesnt mean the nerves are damaged.. it just means your brain is growing more and more stubborn to the re-focusing technique.

nerves can be like plants.. if you dont give them water everyday, they can still grow and live being outside.
but
it takes a whole lot of special work to heal an almost dead plant and nurse it back to life.
this is usually what they are doing to help people walk again.
finally getting all of the key combinations together in order to 'heal' the almost dead nerves.
and this leads me to say, you might hear the doctor say 'the nerves are too far dead for treatment'
since there is probably a threshold of how dead the nerves can be.

it would take some serious serious master chemist to bring a completely dead plant back to life.. and that doesnt mean it is safe for the environment where the work is being done, and it also doesnt mean the success rate is high or guaranteed.
if there are dry nutriants inside the plant that can help nurse it back to life, then the chances would be higher.
but
if there are no nutriants inside the plant.. it is really hard to FORCE those nutriants back into the plant without the plant drinking for itself.

like if you wanted to fill the bloodstream with a shot, and the heart isnt pumping, you would have to use your hand (or a machine) to manually pump the heart to get the shot to mix into the blood.

plants dont have a heart that can be pumped.. and nerves dont either.
when the science finds out how to use a make-shift pump.. they will be using it obviously :) 

if you can hear the pin drop at all.. your hearing isnt that bad.
it took me months to train my brain to zero in and focus on the needle dropping.
and when i finally got it, i could have somebody else drop the needle for me.. because my arms are only so long and i needed more distance.

it isnt a myth about one sound being louder and more painful than another.
i have been hanging out at a muffler shop and most of the time the impact wrench they use doesnt hurt my ears.
but
sometimes they are banging on some metal with the impact wrench, and the metal is long or a rod or something.. and it causes a ring that hurts.
same thing with a hammer smacking down on metal.
depending on the metal and the size.. sometimes the hitting of the hammer is painless and other times it hurts.
this can also be found to be true listening to the saw.
some cuts are nothing, other cuts are obnoxious and painful.

some say octave increase or decrease is the same as frequency increase or decrease.. and if you feel strongly about that, then consider Q as the changing factor.

not all audio is a simple sinewave.
you can have a simple wave of whatever frequency.. but ringing can occur to add to the frequency.
usually the ringing will drown itself into the original frequency, and during the drowning 'collisions' can occur that change the final 'tone'


if you cant go a week or a month without hearing something that makes you say 'ouchie'
then i would consider you sit down and think about how often your ears had a chance to hear something.
it could take dozens of attempts (dozenS = at least 24)

being physically active around loud sounds often, can lead to a built-up immunity.
and you would hear pain later than most other people.
it is a part of being physically fit.
but
there should be a time when you can go on vacation and relax well enough to realize your hearing can be sensitive again.
it might not come as a controllable thing.. and the time when you hear something soft really sensitive might simply 'fall onto your lap'
but
the less often those soft sounds 'fall onto your lap' the better.
because 'falling onto your lap' can be a sign of hearing damage.
if you really work at it, it will get more sensitive.
sometimes it can get worse before it gets better.
but
it is the not getting better at all that is worth considering a medical problem.

i know my ears used to tickle when i first got subs in my car.. and i didnt pay much attention to it.
for one, my ears where really really sensitive at one time.
and i know that it is WIND more so than decibels.

now this would be a perfect time for a doctor to come in and give an answer for each individual person.
because for some, the wind is worse than the decibels.
for others, it is the exact opposite.

sometimes you have to sit and think about whether you are 'blocking it out' or if you have had damage.
i dont know if it is adrenaline.. i am pretty sure it is adrenaline though, it is the chemical that your body can release to help you 'block it out'
and it isnt until you start to relax around loud noises that you become a victim to damage.
it is the actual listening to the loud noises that can lower your sensitivity and sometimes cause nerve damage.

i was in the back of my cousins car and had some midranges and tweeters screaming in my ear.
i have had hearing problems out of that ear ever since.
and that was with me being in the back seat with the speaker pointed at my ear for about 1 hour.

so it is true when they say how many hours for such and such decibels is safe.
i dont know if it was massive amounts of decibels for all of the frequency range, i think it was massive amounts of decibels for the frequency range my ears are sensitive to.
because the speakers were screaming, not playing loud.. and that is a difference.
most people think of screaming as one note or tone, and that is mostly what they were doing.
and i knew then that it was bad for me, i couldnt help myself but to lean over into the other side of the back seat to get my ear away from the speaker.

but
i have also enjoyed being up close to concert speakers without any hearing problems.
my sensitivity went down for the rest of the night, and i didnt pay attention as to when the sensitivity went back up.. but it came back, and it wasnt painful or scary while being close to the speaker.

i have been working on my ear ever since that day in my cousins car.
i always hope that it gets its sensitivity back.
but
unfortunate for me, i grew up with my left ear becoming more sensitive because that is the ear i use to talk on the phone.
my right ear was the one that was close to the speaker.
i have always known my left ear to be more sensitive when i am relaxed after any time i have spent on the telephone.
its like i zoom in with my left ear and it doesnt go away easily.

consider what i said and evaluate yourself.
nobody is going to focus on sounds with your brain better than you can.
but this doesnt mean go out and find a bunch of loud sounds to test with.
softer things like listening to your shoes while you walk.. or listening to your coat as your arms rub the fabric of the rib area.
August 20, 2011 7:06:55 AM

anwaypasible said:
i have also enjoyed being up close to concert speakers without any hearing problems.
my sensitivity went down for the rest of the night, and i didnt pay attention as to when the sensitivity went back up.. but it came back, and it wasnt painful or scary while being close to the speaker.


Hi anwaypasible! :hello: 
Thanks for that big note. ( I'm not making fun or anything like that, just a sincere thanks :)  )
Now I think I've a better understanding of my ears :) 

I just wanted to ask you ( and anyone else is welcome to answer this question too )
that,
I have been using Bass Boost ( provided by Windows 7 ) since about 2 years now, for listening to music ( I like Rap, so I prefer Bass Boost to no Boost, sounds better for me [ I like it better ] )
1st I started with only 6 dB ( default ) & after about 1 month ( as far as I remember ), I was able to hear 18dB without any side-effects ( sting, or headache after sometime, etc. ).
From then I've been using 18dB, recently ( about 1 month now ) I reduced to 15dB ( no particular reason, just felt I didn't want so much Bass, in case they hurt my ears ).
I've also taken quite a break before I reduced the Bass Boost ( about 2-4 months maybe ), because I was very busy with other stuff.

I just wanted to ask, is it Ok if I continue using 15dB Bass Boost to hear to my music, or should I reduce it or stop it completely??
Because, I really like my ears & don't want them to become insensitive or anything ( who doesn't :D  )

Btw, whenever I use Bass Boost, I keep the sound really low, just enough to hear the Bass & ( IF possible ) hear the lyrics too.
Also, I use Headphones to hear my music ( I almost always use headphones, even when playing games [ like Call of Duty, Battlefield, & other racing & shooting games ] ).

Another thing, I've just tried removing the Bass Boost while I was reading your post, & ( unlike normal people [ I'm guessing ] ) I can hear / feel the Bass ( maybe it's because I know the songs very nicely?? ).

Also, since I started hearing to music ( after my recent break ) I listen to them for a max of 1/2 - 1 hr ( until I get any slight head-ache ).
I usually never get any head-aches, but some days, I get a slight head-ache, & then I immediately stop listening to the music & take a break for the rest of the day.
Sometimes I continue for approx. 4-6 hrs., but that's very rare, & I always take breaks in between ( after approx. 1 hr. ).

I'll try to try the needle-drop trick one of these days, & give you the results.

Also, FYI, I started listening with Bass Boost since I was 14 years old, ( now, after 2 years, I'm 16 years old :)  )
Also, I have Loudness Equalization on ( set at Default setting, that is no. 3 bar ).

Thanks for your ( & anyone else's ) reply to this, Much appreciated :) 
Also, thanks to everyone who posted on this thread to help us Bass users ;) 
I have learnt a lot, & will try to be as careful as I can :) 
August 21, 2011 1:04:02 PM

tokyotech said:
Is it possible to get hearing damage from loud bass? Do low frequency sounds do less damage than high frequency sounds at the same decibel level? I've just never felt my ears disturbed by loud bass, so that's why I'm asking.

No, bass does not damage hearing like high frequencies.
The small diaphragm in your ear drum is not large enough to respond to bass, like it can respond to high frequencies.
August 21, 2011 11:40:45 PM

on top of that,
the frequency itself is a totally different enticement.
August 22, 2011 1:30:36 PM

our ears are insensitive to very low frewuncy and very high frequency, this is simply saying that it does less dmg to our ears...


less sensitivity cannot equal same dmg to our ears as to other sensitive frequency.
August 23, 2011 12:31:26 AM

very low and very high can be like a change of pressure, and our ears pick up on this when there is a noise that sounds different.
even if the noise is listening to a very timid breeze of air.

people can hear very high frequencies.. they just dont hear it directly from their ears.
instead, it feels like it changes their emotions.. as if their body is saying 'HELLO can you hear that?'

low frequencies are more like 'hello.. are you ready for that?'
but
lowest frequencies arent heard, especially if there is no pressure associated with the frequency.

like..
0.5 hz might be a timid breeze of air
or even 0.1 hz would be some air
but 0.001 without any pressure? not likely

it gets to a point where you stop listening with your ears and you start listening with your hair.
simply a matter of being aware of your surroundings.
August 23, 2011 2:43:51 PM

soundguruman said:
No, bass does not damage hearing like high frequencies.
The small diaphragm in your ear drum is not large enough to respond to bass, like it can respond to high frequencies.


How about if the lowest frequencies ( Bass ) is boosted (say by about 15dB) ??
September 26, 2012 4:57:35 AM

Hi I stumbled upon this post wandering the total overall adverse effects of bass on the body. I've yet to notice hearing damage after 3 years of constant rattling from subs, hearing several blast caps, artillery simulators, actual artillery, several trips to the firing range and explosions. That as I understand does not mean my hearing isn't damaged. My question was brought up because I have noticed other effects and I am constantly tuning loud car stereo systems. I have 4 rockford fosgate p2 component sets in my tracker and 3 polk audio 12 inch subs. My minimum db response at 1 watt at 1 meter is 88 per speaker. Ive noticed that with ears directly next to a tweeter (3250hz to 24000hz) at almost any volume is PAINFUL. Directly next to subwoofer (27 to 100hz) is not at all. Due to the fact I do a lot of tuning I listen for the slightest hint of distortion at any frequency and can usually pick it out with a fine tooth comb (at high volumes well over 120 db) however low volumes usually sound perfect to me (is it because low volumes have a lesser percentage of harmonic distortion or perhaps my ears are shot? I've notice that because bass sine waves are long they do cause a pain at a distance different from that of high frequency its more of the feeling of bones in my face vibrating and the feeling of pressure inside my ears. ( when I refer to loud bass I refer to windows and metal flexing and solid objects vibrating an inch in the air off of solid or cushiony surfaces). However loud bass around 100hz is the painful bass. What brings my health problem concern up is subsonic noise, below hearing range, the stuff that makes the car shake but no noise. I've noticed it makes me very hyper, floods my system with adrenaline and when I turn my stereo off my heart beat feels irregular, what is that all about, why? And does it have long term health effects. And by all means when sound wave fequency was mentioned early lower frequency yes are usually more spread apart and attack the ears slower but it is important to remember that the desplacement of air accompanied by a lower frequency must be a powerful high volume of displaced air as low frequency take massive amount of energy to produce compared to that of high frequency when they are produce by electronics or explosions. Ie. You have a 4000 watt subwoofer at 24 inches with an excursion of 6 inches it produces a 1hz noise at 4000 watts you are displacing 3456 cubic inches of air a second that's a lot of sound pressure pushin on your eardrum and cilia compared to a 1 inch tweeter with a .001inch excursion pushing 3000hz that's still only 3 cubic inches per second (which is a lot more than a actual non metaphor tweeter would move) so which is worst for your hearing sound pressure or sound volume? What are the adverse effects of high sound pressure, long and short term? P.S. To PREVIOUS POSTER. Bass boost does not increase loudness of low frequency bass it increases sensitivity of your bass output ie you play 100 hz and below through your subwoofer. Ie a particular note of say 33hz (my fav) normaly would play x amount of decibels louder than another particular note of 50 hz in part of a song. well with bass boost turned up both the 33 and 50hz note start playing at about the same loudness in decibels (as bass boost boosts the loudness of HIGH frequency bass). lower notes need more power to produce they begin to clip or reach the maximum volume at which the speaker can play sooner than the higher note. Ie by the time your speaker is bottoming out and playing the 33hz note at its max volume its coming closer to also playing the 50hz note at that same volume (because the lower powered high frequency notes are being boosted) thus they just kind of blend together clip off and sound horrible as the speaker devotes itsself to playing that one note louter you lose the higher note. basicly the the sine wave starts to look like its flat on the top and bottom and is no longer a sine wave. (Bass boost = distortion in other words) if bass boost increases the volume of your speaker and not just makes bass sensitivity higher than that means you need bigger speakers or a bigger amp or both.
August 28, 2014 8:57:32 PM

Before you jump into any conclusion, no matter if its physical based, or what ever, try to learn about the biological ear.
You can find some relevant information on different websites. for example try to search on Wikipedia for Ear , Hearing and Hearing range .
Those information can answer your question.
Anyway, there are different ways of hearing damage.
The ear drum isn't the only body particle that could be damaged.
!