Publicly accessible locations with amplified music, such as discos, cafes, concert halls and schools, should enforce an average noise level of no more than 102 decibels over fifteen minutes for music activities for people aged 16 years and over. The average noise level should be even lower for children under the age of 16. This advice is the result of RIVM research commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
It proved impossible to recommend maximum noise levels that are absolutely safe for every individual and therefore do not pose a risk of hearing loss. This is because the degree to which people are sensitive to loud music varies between individuals. Furthermore, the total amount of (loud) noise to which people are exposed, apart from music, is not the same for everyone.
Young children are less able to take their own measures to prevent hearing loss. This is why the advisory report distinguishes between maximum noise levels for young children up to and including 13 years (an average of 91 decibels over fifteen minutes), children aged 14 and 15 (an average of 96 decibels over fifteen minutes) and people aged 16 and over (an average of 102 decibels over fifteen minutes).
No safe noise levels
The recommended maximum noise levels are not guaranteed to be safe for hearing. Therefore, it is important to advise visitors of musical activities on what they can do to reduce the risk of hearing loss themselves. This can be achieved by wearing hearing protection, taking distance from the sound source (speaker) and by taking so-called hearing breaks.
The advisory report was drawn up by a working group comprised of Dutch experts in the field of acoustics and causes, consequences and prevention of hearing loss due to loud noise, with a focus on loud music. The Netherlands has no national legislation or regulations to protect visitors from places of entertainment against hearing damage due to loud music. Since 2014, a covenant for the prevention of hearing loss in the music sector has been in effect. This covenant applies to a large number of events, pop venues and festivals, and will apply until the first of July 2018.