How loud is Broadway? VUMC researchers say it's so loud it could be damaging

Posted at 10:26 PM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-31 07:19:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Broadway is known for being filled with music, but a new study says the area is so loud it could be damaging your ears.

"The truth is, its really loud," Vanderbilt University Medical Center Resident Physician Sarah Tittman said. Tittman recently finished looking into just how loud Broadway is.

"We went to ten different locations downtown and we measured how loud it was for about 60 minutes," Tittman said. "We had measures upwards of 139 decibels being the max level."

Tittman compared 130 decibels to standing next to an ambulance siren.

"You shouldn't be exposed to that for more than about a minute without safe hearing protection," Tittman said.

She said dangerous noise levels can cause permanent damage for anybody, but her biggest worry was for the hundreds of Broadway workers.

"Short durations of these loud sound exposures is probably an okay thing, it's the day-in and day-out occupational exposure that I worry the most about," Tittman said.

There are regulations for businesses to help protect workers' ears, and those rules are enforced by Tennessee OSHA

"At 85 [decibels], the employer is required to provide hearing protection to the employees, if the noise level goes to 90 [decibels], the employer is required to require the employee to wear the hearing protection," Steve Hawkins said. Hawkins is a deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and oversees Tennessee OSHA.

Hawkins said the department would send investigators to a bar if they received a complaint those rules weren't being followed, but those types of complaints from Broadway Bars are rare.

"Those complaints are pretty rare, generally," Hawkins said.

But even if the complaints are rare, the commotion is common; and Tittman says the damage can be lasting.

"It's important because we don't have anything to reverse noise induced hearing loss," Tittman said.

She said steps to protect your ears are simple: you can bring earplugs or earmuffs, or simply move further away from the band or the speaker.