You will damage your hearing if you keep attending Zumba classes unless you wear significant ear protection.
Has it ever occurred to you, the Zumba enthusiast (either as a participant or instructor), that the volume of the music is harmful to your hearing? It is LOUD!
For this article I consulted with a hearing loss expert (audiologist) who’s also a group fitness instructor (e.g., BodyPump and BodyStep). Rachel Raphael, M.A., CCC-A, is an audiologist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Zumba Classes Are Way Too Loud
Raphael’s classes follow the Les Mills design for choreographed classes of exercise to music.
She explains, “The Les Mills slogan is ‘Turn It Up’, whereas my motto (as an audiologist who knows the risks of loud music) is ‘Turn it Down!’ I know it’s important to carefully balance the beat/volume of the group fitness music between being motivating and keeping it at safe levels!”
It doesn’t matter if it’s BodyPump, Zumba or a step class—pounding, battering music will cause hearing loss over time.
Think of exposure to thunderingly loud music like excessive exposure to sunlight. The damage is cumulative, and people respond differently.
Raphael says, “I’ve seen too many times the effect loud music can have on (mostly musicians’ and concert goers’) hearing loss, even though the damage (sensorineural or nerve type damage, with possible tinnitus as a secondary symptom) doesn’t usually show up immediately; can take many years.”
Zumba participants walk out of the class feeling energized, feeling as though they just did their body so very good.
But they put their ears in harm’s way. If you sprain an ankle in a Zumba class, you’ll immediately feel the pain.
If some nerve cells in your inner ear have been killed off by the loudness…you most likely will not feel any pain or other symptom.
Raphael explains that an immediate result of the loud volume is something called temporary threshold shift.
This is temporary hearing loss from excessive volume—but you may still not be aware of it!
After all, you exit the class and walk into the open area of the gym, which may be too loud for you to detect that you have a temporary threshold shift.
At one of the gyms I attend, the room where the Zumba class takes place opens up to the free weight area where music is played in overhead speakers.
Reams of women file out of the Zumba class at the end; that’s a lot of noise that can mask a temporary threshold shift: many women talking, plus music overhead, plus the clanging of weightlifting equipment.
At another gym I attend, the Zumba classroom is right next to the cardio equipment area.
During prime time, when the class lets out, participants walk straight into an environment loud with plenty of cardio machines going, especially the noisy treadmills. They’ll never notice they have a temporary hearing loss.
Even if you walk out into a quiet environment following a Zumba class, you may still not be able to detect the temporary threshold shift.
It’s painless. You simply head straight to your locker, or maybe you head for the dumbbells or straight to your car. Why would you necessarily notice you have this shift going on?
Temporary threshold shift can become permanent. Raphael says that temporary threshold shift can “become more permanent with repeated and ongoing exposures.” Need I repeat this a third time?
Solutions to Loud Zumba Classes
You’re health-conscious, right? Why would you want to sacrifice sharp hearing? You don’t have to.
You can’t get lost hearing back. Noise induced hearing loss is permanent over time.
And don’t think your ears will toughen up and become resistant. This is a myth. It’s like believing that the more you jump on that sprained ankle, the stronger it will get!
Hearing loss CONTINUES as long as you continue to be in the loud environment, even if you already have hearing damage.
Did you know that an older person who’s very hard of hearing will STILL receive injury to the nerve cells in their ears as long as they’re in a loud environment, even if they don’t perceive it as loud (due to their hearing loss)?
So don’t think for a second that your ears have been damaged so much that it no longer matters! And by the way, you cannot reverse hearing loss.
All of this is well-documented in medical literature. Make some hardcopies and present them to your Zumba instructor.
Hollering into the microphone, by the way, exacerbates the seriousness of the problem.
If your Zumba instructor fails to get any of this, then all you can do is have custom made earplugs made.
They will muffle enough decibels to make the environment safe for your ears. Or, you can wear the ear muffs that people in loud factories wear.
Are you afraid of what other class participants will think if they see the muffs or notice the ear plugs?
- Don’t rank YOUR hearing health below the opinions of people who choose to remain ignorant.
- If you do you’ll one day regret it dearly.
To be blunt…it just SUCKS being hard of hearing. Ask anyone who is.
Rachel A. Raphael specializes in clinical audiology and hearing aid dispensing. She helps in the diagnosis of hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness and vestibular pathology in adults and children.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.