The music is so loud in most Orangetheory studios that it WILL cause hearing loss to anyone who participates on a regular basis or even in one class.

You’ve been brainwashed into believing:

• Music must be pounding loud in order to be motivated.

• Music must be blasting loud in order to work up a sizzling sweat.

• Music must be thundering loud to get fit and melt fat.

This brainwashing applies to Orangetheory instructors as well, who compound the problem by hollering into microphones.

Orangetheory participants claim they need super loud music for motivation. But this is a learned expectation.

  • Look at the military.
  • Can’t get any fitter than that.
  • Do THEY rely on ridiculously loud music to get through their grueling workouts?

It’s just insane that high volume music has become synonymous with exercise.

This kind of thinking is akin to the whacked mindset of over half a century ago ago when doctors were recommending that tense patients smoke cigarettes to relax their nerves.

“But there’s nothing wrong with MY hearing!”

“Unfortunately, listening to music at unsafe levels is quite prevalent and many individuals ignore the significant risk to their hearing until it is too late,” says Rivka Strom, AuD, CCC-A, Director of Audiology, Advanced Hearing NY Inc.

“Safe noise levels depend on the intensity and duration,” continues Strom. “The higher the level of noise and the longer individuals are exposed to it, the greater the risk of suffering harm from it.

“In addition to hearing loss, unsafe noise levels can also cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can be debilitating for some individuals, but this condition is preventable when an unsafe noise level is the cause.”

It’s nothing to get amused about when you exit an Orangetheory class with ringing ears.

And shame on any Orangetheory enthusiast who ridicules a participant for asking that the music volume be turned down.

There’s the story of a participant who complained to the front desk. One of the staff laughed. The other told him to work out at a library.

Those employees probably poke fun at handicapped people, too.

Strom continues, “Guidelines were established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) regarding exposure levels to loud noise.

“Noise exposure limits can be seen in the table below. Note that noise / music at 85dB is tolerated by our ears for eight hours before becoming hazardous.

“When levels reach 97dB, our ears can tolerate those levels for ONLY 30 minutes. At 130dB, it is less than one second.”

If you’ve been going to Orangetheory classes now for some time, get a hearing test. Chances are you have hearing loss. If you don’t (yet), you sooner or later will. Bet the farm on it.

Hearing loss creeps up slowly (just like heart disease), is painless and causes no visible symptoms.

So if you think you have “good hearing,” you’re no different than a fat person on a junk food diet who insists they’re healthy!

First Symptom of Hearing Loss: Thinking Someone Isn’t Talking Clearly

Nowhere in the annals of exercise physiology, exercise psychology, kinesiology or cardiology does it state that without loud music, exercisers will not realize their full fitness or fat-burning potential.

“What is most important to tell these participants is that the effect is cumulative; they may not experience the effects of these unsafe music levels immediately. as there is a time factor,” says Strom.

“Each time they listen to music at these levels, they are damaging their hair cells in the inner ear, and with each exposure and increased damage, they will begin to notice the effects of the damage as they slowly begin to lose perception of speech and have difficulty hearing in many environments.”

GOT THAT?  To put it another way, think of vision deterioration over time, in that unless you check your eyes every so often with a standard eye chart or other objective checking methods, you are not going to notice a 20/20 to 20/25 decline.

Many people don’t realize their 20/20 vision has “gotten worse” until they’re in the 20/40, sometimes 20/50 range.

This perception is even slower when the declining vision begins at an already-impaired baseline, such as going from 20/500 to 20/700.

If you already have hearing loss from Orangetheory music, it will continue getting worse (and the perception of this will get slower), just like skin already damaged from the sun will continue sustaining more injury with continued sun exposure.

Like vision decline and skin damage, hearing loss is cumulative and stealthy.

How many Orangetheory enthusiasts slather on sunblock when exercising outdoors to protect against skin cancer?

How many Orangetheory instructors avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague and won’t touch grain-fed beef or anything with white flour, but then think nothing about the harm of loud music to the ears?!

“When the music level reaches an extremely dangerous level (see below) the effects are immediate and tinnitus can also result post-exposure,” says Strom.

Maximum Recommended Noise Dose Exposure Levels*

Noise Level (dBA) Maximum Exposure Time per 24 Hours
85 8 hours
88 4 hours
91 2 hours
94 1 hour
97 30 minutes
100 15 minutes
103 7.5 minutes
106 3.7 minutes
109 112 seconds
112 56 seconds
115 28 seconds
118 14 seconds
121 7 seconds
124 3 seconds
127 1 second
130–140 less than 1 second
*National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

One hour is the limit for a 94 decibel exposure before damage to inner-ear nerve cells will begin occurring.

Download a decibel app and see what it measures in your next Orangetheory class.

Note in the above chart the exponential reduction in safe-exposure time as dB levels go up.

If your Orangetheory class averages 103 dB, you have seven and a half minutes before the nerve cells in your ears become endangered.

It’s just mind staggering that a fitness and health conscious person would neglect hearing protection and even laugh off the concept of playing the music at a safe volume.

If you’re an Orangetheory instructor or participant who thinks that this hearing loss thing is a bunch of bunk, then consider the following:

• Have you ever been told by a smoker that smoking isn’t harmful to one’s health?

• Have you then wanted to just ring that person’s neck for being in such denial?

• Certainly you’ve heard of the “You can be obese AND healthy” fad? What do you think? Absolutely insane, right?

• Well, you’re just as whacked if you think that the music volume in Orangetheory classes won’t damage your hearing.

Custom-made earplugs will definitely help, but there’s a good chance that few Orangetheory participants will wear them out of fear of what others will think.

But you don’t care what others think when they see you put on sunscreen, turn down the donuts or take nutritional supplements, right?

The Orangetheory program will whip you into shape, reshape your physique and melt fat — with or without blasting music.

Wouldn’t you love to have great hearing when you’re old?

Dr. Strom is a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and has received several awards including Brooklyn College’s Excellence In Audiology Award.
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. 


Top image: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler, Scalable Grid Engine, CC0