Tom Avril, Phillynews.com, writes about the impact of loud music on the unborn. Avril notes that “[r]esearchers cannot perform a controlled laboratory study, because it would be unethical to expose pregnant women to anything that might damage a fetus,” but he adds that there are “a few observational studies of pregnant women who work in noisy environments.” Sadly, the conclusion of those studies is mixed. Avril cites a 2016 study on prenatal noise exposure in Sweden that revealed that for “women in a workplace with sound levels above 85 decibels, children exposed in utero were slightly more likely to suffer impaired hearing than children born to mothers whose workplaces measured below 75 decibels.” But other studies, he states, did not find noise to be a problem.
Avril speaks to Lindsay Bondurant, a pediatric audiologist at Salus University in Elkins Park, who offers that while a one time exposure to a concert should be fine, chronic exposure could be a problem. Rock concerts can reach much higher decibel levels than one would typically be exposed to–up to 120 decibels. Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explains that exposure is different for the fetus than its mother, because “the sound travels through the mother’s abdomen.” She cautions, however, that “timing of the exposure may matter, as well, depending on the developmental stage of the auditory pathway.”
So, what should one do? With conflicting and incomplete information, we would err on the side of caution. As Pediatric audiologist Bondurnat opined, exposure to the sound at one concert should be fine. So unless you are Beyonce, keep your exposure to loud sound to one concert during a pregnancy. And don’t forget to bring ear plugs to the one concert you attend. Developing a practice of using ear protection in loud spaces will come in handy once your child is old enough to attend noisy events with you. After all, it will be easier to get your child to wear ear plugs if she sees her parents doing it.
Update: Before this post was published, the NY Times reported that Beyonce pulled out of Coachella ‘Following the Advice of Her Doctors’. Apparently her doctors advised her to keep a less rigorous schedule. We like to think that they suggested some quiet time too.