The 5 Critical Surround Sound Risks to Know Before You Buy a System

Do I really need surround sound speakers?

The 5 Critical Surround Sound Risks to Know Before You Buy a System

We all know that some sounds can be annoying or painfully loud, but could sound ever be dangerous? If you’re thinking of investing in a surround sound setup, it’s important to understand the potential hazards and how you can avoid them.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common risks associated with a surround sound setup and offer some advice on how you can enjoy an immersive sound experience while steering clear of potential pitfalls.

Loud Sounds Can Cause Hearing Loss

Did your parents ever tell you to turn down the volume of your music, warning you that it could ruin your hearing? Well, it turns out they were absolutely right.

How Does This Happen?

In the simplest terms, the material that coats our auditory nerves breaks down and becomes thinner when exposed to sounds that are too loud. Once that happens, the nerves can’t effectively transmit the electrical signals created by sound vibrations to the brain.

This breakdown and thinning of the nerve coating can result in permanent hearing damage, diminishing your ability to hear for the rest of your life. Therefore, it’s critically important to protect your ears from excessively loud noises.

How to Protect Yourself

The good news is that you can safely enjoy surround sound, but you may have to lower the volume to a reasonable level. Scientists recommend avoiding exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels. If you’re not sure how loud that is, we recommend avoiding anything louder than a lawnmower.

If you’re in a noisy environment like a concert hall where adjusting the volume isn’t an option, use earplugs. They can significantly reduce the risk of hearing damage while still allowing you to enjoy the music.

For audiophiles who can’t possibly imagine compromising on sound quality, consider investing in musician’s earplugs. These specialized earplugs are designed to lower the volume evenly across all frequencies, preserving the richness and detail of music, so you can savor the experience without endangering your hearing.

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11/30/2023 02:43 am GMT
Can surround sound be dangerous?
Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises can happen to anyone, regardless of age.


Loud Sounds Can Rupture Your Ear Drums

Regrettably, a Harry Styles fan ruptured her ear drum during a concert this spring. Despite the fan claiming it was worth the experience, the pain and potential long-term consequences highlight the importance of being mindful of sound levels.

How Does This Happen?

The eardrum is a thin, sensitive membrane. When sound waves enter the ear canal, they cause the eardrum to vibrate. If the sound is extremely loud or there’s a sudden, intense noise (like thousands of people singing As It Was at the top of their lungs), the pressure on the eardrum can become overwhelming.

The force of pressure changes can stretch the eardrum beyond its limits, causing it to pop like a balloon. This is almost always excruciatingly painful.

How to Protect Yourself

You’re unlikely to pop your eardrum at home under normal circumstances. However, this is more likely to happen if you turn on your sound system without realizing the volume is set too high. To avoid this issue, we recommend getting into the habit of checking your volume controls before turning on your system.

Furthermore, when you anticipate being in a noisy environment, such as a concert arena, plan to bring earplugs. These provide a barrier to reduce the intensity of sound and protect your eardrums.

In general, be aware of the noise levels in your surroundings on a day-to-day basis. If you notice ongoing noises are uncomfortably loud, move to a quieter area.

Is surround sound dangerous?
Any type of loud sound is capable of rupturing your eardrum.

©Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock.com

Sound Waves Can Create Air Bubbles in Your Body

This one may sound like science fiction, but it’s totally true. In fact, this is something you might have already heard about if you’ve ever been scuba diving. While scuba divers who surface too quickly get something called “the bends,” sound waves can cause a similar reaction.

How Does This Happen?

Sound is essentially just vibrations. If the vibrations are intense enough, they can penetrate through your body. When this happens, the energy of the waves pushes and pulls on molecules as they travel. If the sound is loud enough, the pressure difference between a push and a pull can create a cavity for an air bubble to form.

Consequently, this affects your nervous system. Mild symptoms can include joint pain, extreme tiredness, nausea, and skin irritation. However, more serious symptoms can include difficulty breathing, paralysis, loss of vision, difficulty balancing, and loss of motor control.

How to Protect Yourself

Unless you have really souped-up speakers, it’s unlikely that your home surround sound system is capable of producing sound waves that can rattle you to the point of creating air bubbles. However, high-powered concert speakers have the potential to be more dangerous.

If you’ve ever been close to a concert speaker, you may have experienced temporary hearing loss, but you might have also observed that it had a nauseating effect on you. While we don’t suggest avoiding concerts altogether, it’s advisable to maintain a safe distance from powerful speakers even if you’re wearing earplugs.

Are sound waves dangerous?
Although you can’t see sound waves, they can sometimes penetrate through your body.


Exposure to Loud Sounds Can Cause Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be profoundly disruptive and distressing, as individuals with the condition perceive ringing or buzzing sounds even in complete silence. In fact, those who experience tinnitus often can’t stand quiet settings because the ringing in their ears becomes more noticeable.

How Does This Happen?

When sound enters your ear, it activates delicate hair cells which act as antennas, sending electrical signals along the auditory nerve to your brain. However, when these cells are overstimulated by loud noises, they can become damaged and send erratic signals. In many cases, the brain interprets these sounds as persistent high-pitched ringing or buzzing.

The hair cells in the inner ear, once damaged or destroyed, do not naturally regenerate or heal on their own. While there are some therapies to manage and cope with the condition, it’s usually permanent.

How to Protect Yourself

It’s important to note that exposure to loud sounds is just one way that tinnitus can occur. In some cases, the condition may arise from a traumatic event like a concussion, ear infection, or certain medications.

While life is unpredictable, and many events are beyond your control, you do have the ability, in many instances, to lower the volume or move to a quiet area. By taking action in the areas where you have influence, you can avoid damage to your ears.

Are there any downsides to surround sound?
Tinnitus can be more noticeable at home because there may not be enough external noise to mask the condition.


Listening to Music Before Bed Can Disrupt Your Sleep Cycle

If you like to listen to music before bed, then we have bad news for you: it can cause “earworms.” While they’re not actual worms, earworms are something you might want to avoid, because they can disrupt your sleep cycle, potentially causing a cascading effect on your health.

How Does This Happen?

The term refers to catchy songs that get stuck in your head and keep playing on a loop. These musical fragments can be quite persistent and can spontaneously pop into your mind, sometimes becoming a bit of a musical nuisance.

Earworms are usually triggered by hearing a snippet of a song, or even just thinking about a particular tune. They usually occur when a person finds a song memorable or emotionally significant.

How to Protect Yourself

The most effective method of preventing earworms is to not listen to music before bed. However, we fully recognize that refraining from listening to music may not be a desirable or feasible choice for many.

If you do choose to listen to music before bed, it’s best to avoid anything that might get stuck in your head. The science says that upbeat tunes with catchy hooks, like Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, cause the most earworms. In general, classical music or soothing songs without lyrics are best.

Are there any downsides to surround sound?
Earworms can interrupt your sleep, negatively impacting your overall health.


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