Last week we discussed hearing loss. Today, it is the opposite – painfully loud noise. Specifically, the audio volume in movie theaters.
A couple of months ago, a friend suggested seeing Spotlight at a local theater.
Crabby Old Lady hardly ever does that anymore. One reason is that it's not nearly as easy as it was in New York City with dozens of theaters within easy distance. Here, she must drive several miles for all but one tiny theater near her so she doesn't often do that.
Even so, Spotlight was on the “don't miss” list and it would be nice to see her friend so they met at the theater. As soon as the lights dimmed and the screen lit up, the bigger reason Crabby mostly avoids movie theaters came back to her.
Crabby's real problem is that the piercingly high volume of movie sound nowadays causes actual pain, a deep ache in her ears.
Crabby's not talking about action movies that don't interest her anyway. She is talking about even the few films still produced that consist of dialogue – like Spotlight.
It had been so long since Crabby watched a movie in a theater that she didn't think to bring ear plugs (not that they help much) so she stuffed her ears with Kleenex. Only in the most minimal way did that reduce the pain.
As Crabby and her friend walked out of the theater afterward, her ears were ringing even louder than from the perpetual tinnitus she has lived with for the past eight or ten years, and ambient street noise along with her friend's voice sounded muffled. That can't possibly be good for anyone.
As Crabby has mentioned here in the past, she firmly believes that if it (“it” being pretty much anything) is happening to her, it is happening to hundreds, maybe thousands or even millions of others.
News stories or commentary about excessive movie volume had never crossed her path so Crabby didn't expect much from a Google search. Wrong, at least to a small degree.
”The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that prolonged or repeated exposure to sounds 85 decibels and higher can cause hearing loss,” reports the healthyhearing website.
“And the louder the sound, the less time it takes for damage to occur.”
Hearing loss at above 85 decibals. For old people who, by age alone, are more susceptible to hearing loss, loud movie audio could be devastating. KRCA-TV in Sacramento, California, tested the levels of several movies in and around that city.
Insurgent and Cinderella - at five different local movie theaters. Both films frequently hit peaks above 85 dBA (decibels), with Cinderella reaching a peak of 120.4 dBA and Insurgent reaching 118 dBA.”
Here's a 2014 report from KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas about excessive movie audio volume:
In 2014, legislation was introduced in the Connecticut legislature aimed at regulating the decibel level of movie audio in theaters but apparently nothing came of it. One reason cited is that people objected to more government intrusion in their lives. As opposed, one wonders, to deafness?
Others say that due to the digital nature of film projection these days, “limiting the noise level could make it difficult to calibrate motion pictures for easy listening when it comes to dialogue and other low-volume scenes.” (healthyhearing.com again)
Yeah, right. Crabby Old Lady has quite a few years of past experience with audio editing and although digital has come along since then, she would need to see some proof before she believes that audio between a scene with explosions and a quiet conversation next, for example, cannot be balanced.
It could be done in the past; why would digital make it impossible?
Meanwhile, Crabby watches movies at home but there are always some she would rather see on a ginormous screen in a theater and to do so without horrible pain in her ears, not to mention potential physical damage. It is unacceptable for a technology known to cause hearing loss to be ignored.
Does any of this (dare Crabby say it?) ring a bell with you?