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News Article

Noise levels in British nightclubs are too high

The alarming truth about Britain’s nightclubs has been revealed in new research published by RNID - the largest charity representing the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. The report, A noise hangover?, reveals noise levels in Britain’s clubs has reached damaging levels.

The alarming truth about Britain’s nightclubs has been revealed in new research published by RNID - the largest charity representing the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. The report, A noise hangover?, reveals noise levels in Britain’s clubs has reached damaging levels. 

The survey measured noise levels in three different areas within fifteen nightclubs in five UK cities - London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

The findings reveal that in some venues, the noise was so loud on the dance floor - sometimes as loud as an aircraft taking off (approx 110dB(A)) - that for those clubbers regularly exposed to loud music, the cumulative effect could be very damaging.

The findings show that little has changed since a review of the literature was conducted by the MRC Institute of Hearing Research (1985). This study found that the hazard from leisure noise would vie as a societal source of impairment and disability at levels of 85-90db(A). 

With growing recognitions of the dangers of regular exposure to loud music, many nightclubs provided chillout rooms - areas set aside for clubbers to sit down and give their feet and ears a break. But the RNID found that out of the fifteen nightclubs surveyed, three didn’t provide any obvious chillout areas - or if they did, these areas were closed on the evening the survey took place. In the remaining twelve nightclubs, noise levels in the supposedly quieter areas averaged 92.3 dB(A) - over 12 decibels higher (or 16 times the sound energy) than the 80dB(A) average recommended for the workplace . Especially worrying, was that in one club, the chillout area proved to be even louder than the dance floor! 

Dr John Low, RNID Chief Executive, comments: “The lack of adequate chillout space for clubbers is worrying as it means that people aren’t able to take breaks from loud noise even if they want to. Since the launch of RNID’s Don’t Lose the Music campaign last year, we’ve been advising people to protect themselves against the cumulative effects of loud music by taking regular breaks and by using the chillout areas to give their ears a break. This new survey shows that clubbers following our advice are being let down by club owners who are failing to provide this space. 

The body of research warning of risks of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in hotels and clubs has led to growing public awareness of the need for smoke-free leisure spaces, see for example, Cenko, Pisaniello, and Esterman (2004). But the RNID study reveals that the public remain largely unaware of the risks from loud music.

“Lots of clubbers have told us they were not aware that the level of the music played in nightclubs is potentially harmful, and many wrongly believed that noise levels were regulated," Dr John Low said. "The reality is that noise levels vary tremendously from club to club, with many reaching potentially damaging levels, and there is no legislation in place to protect the clubber.

“RNID doesn’t want to discourage people from clubbing or call for legislation to lower volume. Instead we want club owners to act responsibly by providing clear information about noise levels and the effect on their customer’s hearing. Unless owners provide ample ‘safe’ chillout space, and start alerting their customers to the risks associated with excessive noise exposure, we are potentially storing up trouble for the future. It’s like sunbathing - if you understand the risks and choose to ignore them, that’s your decision, but if you’re not told about the potential consequences how can you make an informed choice?” 

RNID believes clubbers and club owners have a joint responsibility to protect clubbers’ hearing. 

The charity calls for clubbers to: 

  • protect themselves by taking regular breaks from loud music
  • wear earplugs if regularly exposed 
  • make a conscious effort not to stand by loudspeakers

And it urges club owners to:

  • provide chillout space where noise levels don’t exceed 80dB(A)
  • publish noise levels for the dance floor, the bar and the chillout area, where they can be seen by staff and the public and display consumer-friendly signs advising about hearing protection
  • provide earplugs for free or available to buy

Catlin (2004) reports that the UK nightclub sector has been losing market share recently. Failure to adequately protect their patrons from excessive noise may see this trend accelerate over the coming years.



UK, MRC Institute of Hearing Research Damage to hearing arising from leisure noise: a review of the literature, 1985, xvi.+200 pp.

Cenko, C.; Pisaniollo, D.; Esterman, A. A study of environmental tobacco smoke in South Australian pubs, clubs and cafes International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2004, 14, 1, 3-11 pp.

Catlin, J. Changing habits Leisure Management, 2004, 24, 1, 40-42 pp.

Article details

  • Date
  • 06 May 2004
  • Subject(s)
  • General Leisure and Recreation