Spin class and hearing loss.

Spinning is a great way to get your cardio and improve circulation. It’s fast-paced and fun. It gets you out there with lots of people. You can burn as many as 600 calories in 45 minutes if you’re a pro.

But there are some side effects of spin class and similar activities you need to know about.

Music Tempo’s Effect on Exercise Performance

A small 2010 study was able to demonstrate a connection between music tempo and exercise performance. Unbeknownst to the cyclists, they slowed and sped the music played in a spin class by 10% either way.

Participants worked harder and faster with the faster tempo. They slowed down when the music slowed.

While this is a very small study, other studies have gotten similar results.

Spin class instructors, aerobic teachers and gym owners have made note of these findings. They’re choosing faster-paced music and pumping up the volume to help their students sweat.

They may be getting you to workout harder. But as they do, they’re adding to another problem.

Music Volume’s Effect on Hearing

Do you leave spin class struggling to hear your fellow spinners? Do your ears feel “full”? Or do you hear a ringing or other sound that’s not there? These are all signs that the music was way too loud.

Don’t feel immune if you’re not having these symptoms. Permanent hearing loss can happen very slowly and be undetected for years. It’s still happening. And it’s still irreversible.

Over the years, that loud music destroys more and more of the tiny hair-like cells in your inner ear that pick up sound. As it does, hearing loss becomes more apparent.

How Loud Is Too Loud

A soft wind moves through the leaves on an autumn day. That’s about 10 decibels, the lowest most people with good hearing can hear. A person whispers softly at about 30 decibels.

Normal human conversation is around 50 decibels. A hairdryer is about 78 decibels. A lawnmower is about 80 and “weed eaters” and leaf blowers are about 100 decibels.

Gunshots, fireworks and thunder get up over 150 decibels.

Hearing damage starts at just 85 decibels with prolonged exposure of 8 hours are more. That’s just a little louder than a lawnmower. By the time you’re getting up to motorcycle volume (100 dB), damage occurs within 15 minutes. Beyond that, damage is instant.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll realize it walking out of spin class or a disco, but each time damage occurs, you’re adding onto previous damage until, eventually, it becomes profound hearing loss.

Now, here’s the not so surprising news. It’s not uncommon for gyms to keep the volume over 85 all the time. And according to studies, they can be as loud as 99 decibels, enough to cause permanent damage in 15 minutes.

On top of this, during spin class, a common mantra from participants is “Turn it up” because they think they’ll get a better workout.

How to Avoid Hearing Damage

First of all. Don’t stop working out, especially if your love of cycling helps you stay more active. You can still take precautions to protect your hearing.

1. Take Inventory

Consider all of the loud places you go. These might include some you don’t think of:

  • Restaurants
  • Certain specialty shops, especially those catering to young people
  • Walking near a busy highway or street
  • Driving with your windows or top down
  • Concerts/Events
  • Gym/Zumba/Aerobics/Spin
  • Doing yard work with power equipment
  • Occupational exposure
  • Subway/Train station
  • Shooting Range
  • Listening to music with earbuds at loud volume
  • Recreational vehicles (Motorcycles, Jet skis, snowmobiles, motorboats, etc.)

2. Find Out How Loud

Download a free sound meter on your smartphone or ask a friend to download one and help you do some tests.

Find out how loud these places are. Some spin classes keep the music up over 100 decibels for the full 45 minutes. If they’re doing this during your spin class you’ll want to wear protection.

3. Limit Your Exposure

When you have options, choose places where it’s not so loud. Limit your time performing activities that cause damage unless you’re able to wear ear protection. Wear ear protection like earplugs when it’s an option.

You may never have noticed because you didn’t really think about it before, but a lot of people of all ages wear earplugs at the gym for this very reason.

4. Don’t Wait to Get Tested

If you’ve had significant exposure to these kinds of activities, the damage is already done. It’s not reversible, but there are things you can do.

Get a hearing test to find out where you stand. Don’t wait until it gets really bad. Untreated hearing loss can cause all kinds of life and health challenges.

Hearing aids are the best solution for hearing loss. You may be surprised how advanced “hearables” are today.

Talk to a hearing specialist about hearing solutions.