By Jordan Richmond
If you have any semblance of modern, band-driven worship, I guarantee you’ve had complaints about volume. I had a guy who would stick toilet paper in his ears every week and obnoxiously pace the foyer during the music set.
Conventional wisdom tells us that more volume equals more energy. After all people don’t want to hear themselves sing right?
So what’s the perfect volume? In this case, Disney has the answer. Disney seems to have a knack for managing expectations and providing the best user experience on the planet. They can teach us a thing or two about worship. So during my last visit to Disney World I decided to conduct an experiment. Every show I attended I would take out my iPhone and fire up the RTA Lite app. This handy (and free) little tool let’s me measure the decibel level at certain frequencies. I can see the level of the bass, mids, and trebles. The results shocked me.
- Decibel Level – At every show and concert, the average level was about 75 db. That’s pretty soft—about the same as a dial tone with the phone up to your ear. Occasionally it might pop up to 85 db (city traffic), but not much more (hearing damage occurs at 90-95 db with sustained exposure). It was amazing how an explosion or kick drum had incredible intensity when everything else was at a pleasant level.
- Frequencies – The frequency spectrum was linear (as opposed to flat or the typical “smiley face” with enhanced lows and highs, and reduced mids). Bass was the loudest, and it would evenly taper off as it headed toward the higher frequencies. So the sound I heard was ultimately smooth. It had impact when it needed to, and was never shrill or brassy.
- Other Factors – Admittedly the shows I attended were family friendly—inviting young and old. EPCOT did have more concert/dance adult-oriented venues later in the evening. These were significantly louder (too loud for my taste). Also, every Disney venue featured Meyer arrays and trained sound men, so the end product was excellent.
So what did I learn from Disney?
I observed everyone, babies to grandmas, enjoying their experience. They participated. I also realized that sound is something we cannot escape. We cannot turn off our ears. We can look at something else if a light is too bright, but we cannot divert our hearing.
I attended a church service that weekend and felt almost assaulted by the sound (around 90-95 db). Admittedly I’ve subjected my church to that numerous times and wondered why they didn’t participate as actively. By all means pump the volume for youth groups. But for the large corporate service featuring all age groups (or children’s worship), it might be a good idea to bring the volume down.
More volume does not necessarily equal more energy. It insults your listeners, and robs you of the head room you need to emphasize dynamics and impacts when you need to. Turn it down. Smooth it out.
How loud is your church? Would you respond differently if the volume were different?
Jordan Richmond is a worship pastor at Idlewild in Tampa, FL. He has also served other local churches in Florida, Kentucky, and the Cayman Islands.
Posted on April 17, 2013
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
If I can’t hear the melody of a song clearly because the instruments are overpowering it, then the music is too loud. I won’t be able to learn new songs, and I won’t be able to sing along, and that makes me sad. I *want* to sing praises to the Lord, but I often find myself just standing there completely lost. It diminishes my ability to worship and my joy in doing so when I can’t participate. Please, sound booth techs, turn the volume down.
I totally agree with Margaret. We have people who attend our Bible Fellowship Class who would love to go to church, but have told us they tried and could not handle the sound volume. They went home with headaches. They had also tried different areas of the sanctuary but it did not help. I have had the same experience. I can’t sing to much of it because it is so loud I don’t know if I am making any noise or not. My husband and I now wear ear plugs every week. It’s too bad because we have a wonderful church and a great music program but we do not even go to the special musicals any more. We do miss that kind of worship so much. I wish we could just hear the large congregation sing instead of all the “Praise Team” and orchestra/band. We are here to worship, too. Not just for the music people.
Amen, Joan….I ended up having to leave a church and people I loved because of the painfully loud music and the worship team dominating the worship instead of encouraging the congregation to sing.
Thanks for sharing your experience on this blog Joan. I’m hoping your comments will eventually edify the church at large, and demonstrate what we all want…a worship environment that focuses on the right things, as well as creating mature worshippers who are able to decide to worship regardless of the distractions.
PS – By the way, if you haven’t — try HEARO’s…they reduce the volume without affecting frequencies. Unlike ear plugs (which block out too much), HEARO’s are able to simply reduce the overall volume for the listener. It’s also easier to sing with them in. Ear plugs make it nearly impossible to participate in singing. Wish we knew each other, I’d give you my own pair.
Amen….I ended up having to leave a church I loved because I had to see an ear specialist. I’d lost hearing in my right ear from the loud music. I quit even trying to sing along and just “lip synced”….I’d thought the ORIGINAL purpose of worship leaders was to LEAD the congregation in worship not over power us. God has often put in my heart he wants to hear His SHEEP singing and worshiping together. I’ve shared this with leaders just to get a kind of “go away little girl” answer. I am praying to be led to a church doesn’t have ‘entertainers’, and bless their hearts they don’t even realize how their loudness does appeal to EVERYone. Some teenagers love classical music and some seniors, like me, love some of the newer songs and groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martha Munizi and more. We are filled with Jesus….and just as we can not, dare not put Jesus in a neat little box, the same should apply to us who are filled with Him…….
“EPCOT did have more concert/dance adult-oriented venues later in the evening. These were significantly louder (too loud for my taste).”
This article is completely subjective and the author shows his bias in this statement. How loud is too loud? It depends on your target audience, room size, instrumentation and several other factors.
Of course it is subjective, just as much as yours. That’s what opinion is about.
I think he just means that the author is being a bit misleading here. On the one hand, he sets up Disney as an authority on “getting the loudness correct” because of their success in the marketplace, but then he cherry-picks his analysis of what Disney does. The article reads as if softer is better and that Disney supports this theory because their shows are soft. But in reality, Disney has shows which are soft AND loud, which does not support the orginal point (softer is better).
I think while the heart of the article is good (as I worship leader I defnitely think there is real value in letting the congregation hear themselves sing) it is a misleading appeal to authority and not really a very helpful article.
I believe the purpose of the article was for you to examine your church’s all-congregation services, especially if such a large congregation includes all types of life, as Disney’s does. Most importantly, the sharing of an experience and perspective that may help you in your own work/mission-place, as leaders. You never look around Disney audiences and only see one age or “type” of person, you have no idea who prefers hymns, spirituals, gospel or heavy metal. You see various nationalities, backgrounds and demographics — engaged, even through screaming cranky children — and volume never seems to be the issue. So it would be wise to at least speculate as to why they are successful in accomplishing this, aside from the fact that they’re, well, Disney 😉 You may not ever need to address it if your church is primarily one population, or it’s “always been that way.” Those that are missing it with ANY member, and style preference is not an issue, may want to determine if volume could be a limiting factor. I can assure you, the author is not suggesting that every venue run “soft” but perhaps “softer” could be key… or not. If you’re doing louder well, do it. It was to get you thinking — and as evidenced by the comment thread — mission accomplished.
Revelation 4 and 5 indicate an intense volume level in heaven. Perhaps congregations who “do” church louder are just preparing their folks for the life to come. Sometimes more is more.
And sometimes more is less…hearing.
In Heaven, we’l have spiritual ears, and not man made “music”. Nothing will hurt, and music can be 10 times louder than 90 decibels and it won’t cause us to lose out hearing…..like it did mine :/
You are wrong to compare The Worship of our God that goes on in Heaven to what is going on in congregations of The Church today.
When we are all finally Home there is no sin nor sinning to interfere and hinder our expressions of Love and Honor and Glory to Yeshua.
Your comment seems pretty ridiculous because there is no comparison to Perfection and Imperfection.
Rev. 8:1b there was a silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Silence gives assurance of success in adoration. “Recalls the liturgical silence that fell over the Jerusalem Temple when priests offered incense and the multitudes prayed quietly in the outer court. (Lk 1:8-10) Jewish tradition also speaks of an angelic silence in the heaven when Isreal prays and when the judgments of God are about to fall. (Hab 2:20; Zeph 1:7). Here an angel offers the prayers of the saints with incense (Rev 8:3-4) just before curses descend upon the earth (8:7-9:21; 11:15-19)” ( page 46 of Ignatius Study Bible on the Revelation to John) Church service will be very refreshing if from time to time the worship leader would lead all to have long silence to see what God might speak to all instead of focusing on human-performance via noisy music.
Don’t be stupid. The sound level will be perfect in Heaven for the ears on our new bodies. They will not be able to be damaged.
2 words: Deaf Church. Seriously. We crank it up to 11 frequently. 😉
Yes- us Deaf folks need to feel that Bass!
I agree that 75db is a little too quiet for most churches, but I also have a slightly different perspective on why people participate or not. Perhaps part of the reason that everyone was really enjoying the Disney concert is because that is someplace that they really wanted to be, someplace that they had invested in. I see too many churchgoers who are passive, they are merely spectating. I think that if we could make disciples and have a church full of people who are there because they are genuinely excited about worshipping God, then the volume won’t matter nearly as much. At our church, we strive for 90db without having too much high frequency content. We rarely have people complaining about it being too loud, and we have an awesome time of worship. Personally, I blame our worship leader for that. His passion and love for our congregation is what engages them in worship. Whether is 80 or 95db, we still have the same spirit of worship in the room.
I love a loud and upbeat worship, but it’s not enjoyable if it’s so loud that your ears hurt. I’ve experienced that a couple times, and it was not pleasant.
Visited a church on Sunday where the music was 95 db, which is much too loud. Loud music encourages people not to sing as it’s rather hard to sing when you can’t hear yourself.
Additionally, loud music sends a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, message that only young people need attend. What about older adults with hearing difficulties or small children and even pregnant women? Loud music is especially harmful for them and if we as the church as to live as a family, we should get rid of everything that presents the majority from worshipping together at one time.
Finally, in the UK, if you work a job with noise exposure over 80db, your employer is required to provide you with hearing protectors (http://www.advanced-noise-solutions.co.uk/noise-effects/). Think of that the next time you want to “turn it up to 11”
Interesting article. I run sound at my church, and I have generally found about the same to be true. I normally shoot for 75-80db sustained with peaks in the upper 80s. There is truth to the idea that people can be self-concsious about their singing (or lack thereof) if the volume is too low, but if it is too high, you miss out on the “corporate” aspect of corporate worship.
One other thing… Without a doubt, the most profound worship services I have ever attended were at Together for the Gospel in 2010 and 2012. The volumes there were probably in the 90db range, but they were almost entirely produced by the 7,000 attendees, most of whom were men. There was a kind of holy violence to it that created an environment that was extremely conducive to unfettered worship. I mention this to point out that the issue is not necessarily the actual volume, but the overall community and environment of your congregation.
The context of what is producing a sound level is indeed important, as you have aptly pointed out.
There is a difference between that sound level being directed AT YOU from a system source, versus an ambient sound level generated across a large room.
Some very good points. I enjoyed the dynamics of worship at T4G the times I attended. I hasten to add, however, that I must add my name to the list of those who think certain dynamics are just too much (too loud, too strong, too big…) I often think that it is not about worship anymore… but this is only opinion. A second opinion: I think that the major emphasis of music in worship should be the people gathered, singing, and not instruments, solos, other features. Variety is good, but not everything. Instruments should assist in worship, but not dominate… Okay, that’s enough for now ( but I did enjoy your thoughts- thanks).
How can you mix at 70-75dB?
A normaly conversation without Sound Reinforcement is @ 70-80dB.
Stage noise is louder than that.
So… that’s false.
This article is perhaps the most useless and inaccurate description of SPL measurement.
Some many things haven’t been addressed.
First off. Pocket RTA/SPL meters aren’t accurate or reliable.
Second, when your using a SPL METER… not an iPhone, you need to calibrate it.
Thirdly, Setting your meter to the correct weighting , responce and range will change your readings tenfold.
The person who wrote this article needs to get the facts straight before they miseducate people.
…I ended up having to leave a church I loved because I had to see an ear specialist. I’d lost hearing in my right ear from the loud music. I quit even trying to sing along and just “lip synced”….I’d thought the ORIGINAL purpose of worship leaders was to LEAD the congregation in worship not over power us. God has often put in my heart he wants to hear His SHEEP singing and worshiping together. I’ve shared this with leaders just to get a kind of “go away little girl” answer. I am praying to be led to a church doesn’t have ‘entertainers’, and bless their hearts they don’t even realize how their loudness does appeal to EVERYone. Some teenagers love classical music and some seniors, like me, love some of the newer songs and groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martha Munizi and more. We are filled with Jesus….and just as we can not, dare not put Jesus in a neat little box, the same should apply to us who are filled with Him…….
Dallas, you miss the point. The article is right on, exclaiming the physical discomfort that so many feel with music that is way too loud and overpowering. Having such loud music is unfair and very exclusive. It is not fair to expect individuals to go search for another church just because they cannot handle the volume or intensity of the music. If you want to go to a rock concert, then by all means go to one. But, church should not be about a stage performance. It should be about the whole congregation lifting up praise to the Lord with one voice. Church is not for the next “Christian” rock performance. It just is not fair to the whole congregation and is very divisive. Where is the brotherly love in that?
Our church service is not only above 85 decibels (last measurement was 114 amortized) but also well above 200 hz pressure. As a consequence, after many members left and others are leaving, I am starting an unincorporated fellowship to meet the needs.
We are using the finest equipment for testing which expensed above $1,000 for purchase. Same equipment used by law enforcement with the tests certified as admissible in courts of law.
There is a hard heartedness about the stage craft of their Church Rock Music. It should be the Holy Spirit drawing each person, not painful rock music. It is Christ who must be lifted up, not the music.
Dallas, the article is on target when it talks about reasonable sound levels.
You do not need meters or gadgets to know if the music is too loud. Just listen to it. As far as “How can you mix at 70-75dB?” I don’t know and I don’t care. Does it need to be mixed?
If it is too loud it does not need to be mixed because it is just worthless noise and it does not matter how it is mixed if it is too loud because it is just noise.
God is not asleep we do not need to blast out with overpowered speakers for him to hear.
“You do not need meters or gadgets to know if the music is too loud. Just listen to it.”. Actually, you do need a meters, and you cannot rely on your ears becuase they lie to you! 🙂
It’s a common misconception that human ears are good at judging “loud” and “soft”, when in reality they aren’t. The problem is that the human hearing system has no absolute point of reference: it all depends on recent exposure. In other words, your ears and brain have a sort of “floating” reference point that gradually moves up and down over time, adapting to the surroundings, regarding what it judges as “normal”. So if you have been listening to loud sound for a while (a few minutes) then your brain adjusts to say that this new level is now “normal”, and anything less than that is “quiet” while anything greater is “loud”. If the volume of the music then goes up, another few minutes later your brain has once again adjusted to the new louder level, and now considers THAT “normal”.
You can see where this is going, and why it is a problem in churches: the musicians and sound team arrive at church early, and start playing: within a few minutes, their hearing has adapted, and what was “loud” a few minutes ago is now “normal”. So they turn it up without even realizing it. A few minutes later, their hearing adjusts again to that new higher level, and it now considers THAT to be normal. So the level goes up again. And the pattern repeats. After say an hour of setting up, warming up, rehearsal, and sound-check, their reference level has gradually crept way up, and their ears are now adjusted to a level where “normal” for them is “really loud” for the person who just walked in the door after a quiet night’s sleep, a calm breakfast, a nice quiet car ride to the church, and a quiet stroll across the parking lot, and through the church foyer. so when that “newcomer” walks into the main sanctuary, what they hear is “VERY LOUD”, because their hearing is still adjusted to a low level. An when they complain to the musicians, they get a look of “You’re nuts! This is NORMAL!” And the music does NOT get turned down, because when they try to do that, it now sounds “really quiet” to them.
This is the underlying problem behind much of the arguments between the praise team / sound team, and the newly arriving congregation: they musicians and sound guys really do not perceive the sound as being “loud” since there internal reference level is skewed upwards, while the reference level of the congregations is skewed downwards.
So they are both right! For the musicians, the music just isn’t loud at all, while for the new arrival it is very loud. Both are correct in their assessment of the volume … SUBJECTIVELY. But neither is correct OBJECTIVELY.
That’s why you absolutely and most definitely do need a sound level meter in your church: it has a fixed reference point built into its internal circuitry, and that point does not change, no matter how loud or quite the music is. It provides the objective level of the sound in the room, not open to argument or discussion. Everyone can see the numbers on the screen, so there is no way that the “loud-adapted” musicians can then claim that it really isn’t all that loud: the numbers don’t lie.
If there is a sound level meter in the church, the musicians and sound team must also be trained how to use it (it is nowhere near as simple as just turning it on and looking at the screen!), and must then use it regularly during the set-up, rehearsal, sound-check AND THE SERVICE, paying close attention to the limits I mentioned in a previous post. If they are regularly checking the sound level meter, then they will easily be able to keep the level down to where it should be, and it will NOT creep up as time passes: it will remain constant, as it should.
“As far as “How can you mix at 70-75dB?” I don’t know and I don’t care. Does it need to be mixed?”. You should care, and yes it does need to be mixed! Not mixing properly is one of the other main issues of church sound: a properly trained sound engineer “sculpts” the sound of each instrument and voice, to reduce the level of some frequencies (tones) that are not needed by that particular instrument, thus leaving “space” in the audio spectrum so that they can increase the level of other instruments that do need those frequencies. This prevents the typical and very common “beginner’s mush”, where all instruments are equalized the exact same way, as they are all fighting with each other at every point on the spectrum! So fr example, a good sound engineer will cut out the entire mid range from the kick drum, the snare and the toms, since they don’t have any useful energy there, and that leaves space to insert the keyboard and acoustic guitar. Those two in turn will have their bottom and top ends trimmed down a little, to allow for the drums and electric guitars to fit in without fighting. And the electric guitars in turn will have their middle range reduced slightly to allow for the vocals to fit in: Finally, the vocal channels will have ALL of the low end totally chopped off, since there is nothing useful in the human voice below about 200 Hz., so everything that the mics are picking up below that level is just useless noise from the rest of the stage (eg, drums, bass guitar, keyboard low end, etc.) and that does not belong in a vocal channel.
So if each channel on the console is correctly adjusted to highlight ONLY the frequencies that really belong to that sound source, and to cut out all others, then they all fit together harmoniously, instead of mushing along together in a muddy glob.
If you don’t mix, then you will never have good sound in your church, regardless of how loud or quiet it is. So you SHOULD care about having a sound tech who knows how to mix.
And yes, as Dalas pointed out, a level of “70 to 75 dB” is way quite, and physically impossible to mix at, since that is the level of conversation between two people. In other words, if it were even possible to mix at that level, then the sound coming out the speakers would be drowned out by the singing, or even by two people talking to each other: you would never be able to hear the music at all: That is roughly the level of the background music in a supermarket, quiet restaurant, or elevator, and that’s the entire purpose of such music: to be a background. One can hardly have the corporate body of the church praising and worshiping the Lord in the background!
70-75 dB is the correct level for the SERMON and other spoken word segments of the service, but is way too quiet for the music. A reasonable and safe level is about 85 dB, which can then descend down to 80 dB for quieter, more gentle songs, and rise to 90 dB for more dynamic songs. Those are reasonable, safe, moderate levels, that nobody should be complaining about, or even noticing…. PROVIDED THAT the sound system is set up correctly, operated correctly, and that the room is correctly treated, acoustically.
“If it is too loud it does not need to be mixed because it is just worthless noise and it does not matter how it is mixed if it is too loud because it is just noise.” – Sorry, but that just isn’t true: if it is mixed PROPERLY and the room is good acoustically, then it will not be “worthless noise”, even if it is too loud. It will just be too loud, which is a very different thing. A good mix that is too loud will still sound good: just loud. It won’t be muddy, shrill, harsh, tinny, thumpy, or anything else: it will simply be loud, which is easy to fix: just turn it down.
On the other hand, a badly done mix will sound bad no matter how loud or quite it is, and is way more difficult to fix: turning it down will not make it sound any better at all!
That’s one of the main problems: For most people, regardless of what the REAL problem is with the sound, they simply refer to it as “too loud”, when in actual fact, loudness is not the problem. They don’t know how to identify or put a name to what it is about the music that is actually bothering them: they call all issues “too loud” when in reality volume is not the problem.
It’s the same as someone going to the doctor and just saying “I feel sick”. If that’s the only symptom you can give him, then there’s no way he will be able to cure you until he has done a series of tests and identified the problem. On the other hand, if you can tell him what your exact symptoms are, he’ll have a much better idea of what is wrong with you, and he will be able to treat you much better, and faster. It’s the same with church acoustics: Everyone goes to the “doctor” at the console, and tells him “the room is sick”, but since they don’t specify in what WAY it is “sick”, the doctor cannot treat it. It needs an expert with specialized instruments to physically go to the church and run the tests on both the room acoustics and on the sound system itself, to determine why it is “sick”. Based on those test results, the expert can then prescribe the “medicine” to make it well again.
In my work, the most frequent problem I see in churches is that the room acoustics are so poor that even un-amplified voices and acoustic guitar already sound bad: That certainly isn’t “too loud”: it is simply “too reverberant” or “too diffusive” or “too absorbent” in certain frequency ranges. Only rarely is the issue that it really is “too loud” .
The medicine for such illnesses is NOT to turn down the volume on the console: the medicine is to install acoustic diffusion on the points that need it around the rooms, and acoustic absorption on other points that need it. The “prescription” might also include replacing the hard pews with softer upholstered chairs, or adding treatment under and behind each pew, or adding cushions, since the seating in a church is a huge part of the overall environment: an unoccupied wooden pew is a major acoustic nightmare, while an unoccupied soft chair is not, and in fact is helping the acoustics, both when occupied and not occupied.
The “prescription” might also be to re-aim the speakers, replace them with something better suited to the room, re-locate mics, instruments and monitors, and calibrate the entire sound system correctly. And the overall remedy will very likely include additional training for both the sound team AND ALSO for the musicians, who frequently are a much greater part of the problem than they realize, and also don’t think they are part of the solution when in fact they are.
The solution, in my experience, is almost never “turn it down”.
“God is not asleep we do not need to blast out with overpowered speakers for him to hear.”. Once again, it is a common misconception in churches that the way to get the volume right, is to use underpowered speakers: nothing could be further from the truth! Underpowered speakers will clip and distort the sound, will not be able to cleanly handle the transients, will sound terrible (even if they are good quality), and will like end up with their tweeters burning out every few months, “inexplicably”. The solution is, in fact, to use slightly over-powered speakers, and greatly overpowered amplifiers (if they are separate from the speakers), but to then correctly calibrate the entire sound system such that the speakers are easily producing the maximum allowable level without even breaking a sweat, then to limit the maximum possible sound pressure level at the speaker itself, such that the console operator cannot turn up the volume any louder than that, no matter what he does.
Think of it this way: if you want to travel in a car at a steady 65 MPH on the highway, then it makes no sense to try to do that in a car whose maximum speed is 65 MPH! The engine, gearbox and drive train will be screaming at their limits, badly overworked, overheating, making a huge racket, running very inefficiently and uncomfortably, shaking and rattling, and damaging both the car and the patience of the riders. IT will be a lousy experience, even though the car matches the specs of the job: it can travel at 65MPH. A far better plan is to get a car whose maximum speed is more like 120 MPH, so when it is running at 65 MPH it does so effortlessly, quietly, easily, smoothly, efficiently, without straining at all, and everyone is happy.
The solution to church sound systems is not to undersize them; it is to size them correctly for the job they must do, so that they can do it without straining or being overloaded, and then CALIBRATE them correctly so that they can only be run at the correct levels, never overloaded, and then to train the operators correctly.
Thank you Stuart.
Thanks for bringing some actual technical knowledge into this discussion. Most church attendees have no knowledge of the skill and effort needed to craft various sound sources into a clean, intelligible, and enjoyable whole. The volume is but one aspect of many that can turn a listening experience from pleasant to unpleasant.
Corporate worship should be different than a concert. When accompanying a congregation, regardless of instrument(s), there’s a fine line: it must give them support and encouragement in singing, while letting them be able to hear themselves and others. A very difficult task with a hundred variables to take into account. But do not let this be dismissed!
I thought or ‘original’ purpose for worship leaders was to GET THE CONGREGATION TO WORSHIP not to entertain. I once heard of a service with no up front group. When the congregation all sang together, often people in different sections harmonized with other sections and it was more anointed than any up front singing so loud you don’t even bother to try to sing, groups. God put it on my heart that if I would not subject a newborn baby to music over 80 decibels why should we subject our own very delicately created ears?? It is not hatred, it is frustration, sadness, and goodbye……..
“if I would not subject a newborn baby to music over 80 decibels why should we subject our own very delicately created ears”. I would respectfully suggest that the reason we don’t subject babies to levels over 80 dB, while we do with adults, is because a baby’s hearing system has not yet developed fully to the stage where it can handle those levels safely, whereas adult ears have.
It’s the same reason we don’t subject babies to solid food, whereas we do subject adults to that: because a baby’s digestive system has not yet developed enough to be able to handle solid food, while an adult’s has. Or the same reason we don’t allow babies to have access to dangerous objects, such as knives, forks, matches, and pens: because their brains have not yet developed enough to be able to use such implements safely.
The reason why adults can use forks, eat solid food, and listen to 85 dB all day without harming themselves, is precisely because they are adults! Their bodes have grown and developed in the way God intended and planned, such that they can now handle things that would have been dangerous for them at an earlier age.
Of course, in all cases, there are still limits: Some “foods” cannot be eaten safely even by adults. Some implements cannot be handled safely even by adults, unless they use suitable protection. And some sound levels cannot be handled by unprotected adult ears either.
The issue isn’t that adults should not be exposed to things that might harm babies: if that were the case, we would all live our entire lives in incubators! The issue is that adults should not be exposed to things that can harm ADULTS, and that includes sound levels. But 80 dB is not the right level for that. If you think that no adult should be exposed to a level over 80 dB, then you yourself had better stop talking in crowded places, and you had better tell your pastor to stop preaching too! I guarantee that if I were to measure the level of his unamplified voice while he is preaching, it will already be over 80 dB(C)… And I guarantee that if I were to measure the level of your own voice while you chat with a friend at the mall, or even in the church right after the service is over, that too would be over 80 dB…
90-95 dB will push people right out the door if they have small kids, especially if you’ve mic’ed your drums. A church plant near us uses 80dB as their base level, it has a smooth sound and the frequencies don’t overreach. Of course 80 db through bad speakers will sound like mud through a spaghetti strainer, but then you need more help the volume.
That’s a common myth, and is very wrong: “90-95 dB will push people right out the door if they have small kids, especially if you’ve mic’ed your drums.” In reality (and very paradoxically. And very non-intuitively:) it is the act of NOT mic’ing the drums that makes the sound muddy and too loud.
If the drums are mic’d properly, and the sound system is set up properly, and the console is operated properly, then the overall level can be kept under control. Failing to mic the drums causes the drummer to play much louder than he should, which overwhelms the other musicians, who are then forced to play even more loudly themselves, which in turn forces the sound tech to turn everything up in order to keep it balanced….
If the drums are mic’d properly, then the drummer can play at a decently soft level, (s he should), while the sound system then takes care of limiting the dynamics and spectrum of the drums, blending that with the other instruments and the voices in a controlled manner, and sending that out over the main speakers at a reasonable and balanced level.
I’ve been visiting in churches where I had to wear earplugs. Needless to say, I didn’t join there. I deal with people with hearing loss every day and I value the good hearing I have. Once it’s gone you can’t get it back, no matter how good the hearing aid is. No one need to leave the service with a headache.
Volume does not necessarily equate to excitement. It’s the whole worship experience. I used to hear senior adults complain about the volume of the music. Now I am one. I understand a little more. It is not the volume as much as it the volume force. The vibration from a deep base or drum can make a Senior Adult very uncomfortable. It sometimes actually hurts. I heard one sweet senior adult say they loved their church so much they tried their best to endure the vibration and volume but they went home sick. That’s real folks. There needs to be some good studies that would indicate the level of sound and the comfort of the people.
We have an interesting problem with our church’s services. We have different styles aimed at different age demographics during the weekend. For our earlier service (aimed at attendees 40+) we set the levels at 80db with peaks in mid to upper 80’s. The later service (aimed at attendees 40 and below) we set at 90. Occasionally we will mix things up and have the band that plays at the later service play at the earlier service. Regardless, the volume level DOES NOT CHANGE, but just purely the fact that students are leading the worship results in some very pointed and hatred filled comments about volume. Sometimes its more about perceived volume than actual volume. If people don’t like the music, they usually just say it is too loud.
I loved my church, and I loved the music, yet it left me with so much constant pain in my right ear I had to see a specialist. Yes, I’d lost hearing. He cautioned me to try not to be around loud music. I don’t like the idea of different types of music for different ages. I’m 66 now, and LOVE some of the young groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martah Munizi and more. When I was a teen I loved many genres of music from classical, rock & roll, gospel, country. I would rather have music chosen by the Holy Spirit regardless of what age category I fall in.
In response to Josh Mellema:
Why would you wish to irritate anyone in Christ? The fact is that sound above 70-75 dB is TOO LOUD. You contradicted yourself by stating that the levels were set at 80 dB for the earlier service, and 90 dB for the later one. THAT IS NOT THE SAME! Your comments about people’s perceptions is immature. How do you know what people are thinking when they say the music is TOO LOUD? Are you calling them liars? Why not follow the Master and lay down your life for the brethren?
75 DB is really, really quiet. Hearing damage at 90-95 DB only sets in after 8 hours of continuous exposure. I think running an average of 90-95 DB is totally fine, as long as there aren’t too many annoying frequencies.
I’m an audiologist and if you sustain 90-95 dB SPL you will cause noise induced hearing loss in some of your people. “Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.” Although being aware of decibel levels is an important factor in protecting one’s hearing, distance from the source of the sound and duration of exposure to the sound are equally important. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are “too loud” and “too close” or that last “too long.” STATEMENT BY NIDCD
From what I understand, the exposure has to be quite extended to do any kind of damage, at least according to OSHA. If a service is running at 90-95 db, there won’t be hearing loss for anyone after 30 minutes.
I know this comment is old, but I needed to say that OSHA standards dictate what’s LAWFUL. NIOSH standards dictate what’s healthy. Compare the two. Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.
As some have stated, the youth want to “feel” the music. Most elderly want to “hear” the music, not feel it. When the music assaults your body, it is unhealthy, regardless of the sound level or duration. My wife will not attend church praise & worship until that portion of the service is over. The reverberations in her chest are uncomfortable. I can only imagine what the infants in the service must be feeling.
Define too loud. In replay to Barbara
I am so fed up with the so called “church music” that resembles a disco that I have given up attending church for anything other than said services.
I long for a day when the c of e will re-evaluate it’s church music and realise just how many people it has lost (including young) due to the lack of decent music with a robed choir and the sound of a magnificent organ. Never too loud but very powerful music sung well reaches out far more than “let’s hold hands with Jesus” and other trite lowest common denominator music. And speak as a young person who sees every week a c of e church doing a “disco” to 25 worshipers and an RC church with incense bells robed choir and organ with over 300 worshipers!
Typical dismissive, caricature of modern worshippers styles, that not only is inaccurate in terms of common practice, but unhelpful in the larger conversation.
I completely agree with you. I attend a church and this year at a Christmas concert instead o singing lots of Christmas carols, they ended up singing loud songs (okay for maybe other Sundays, but not for Christmas) the drums so loud, I completely lost the awesome and reverant mood I used to have at Christmas, and the mood I should have felt and would have left half way through the concert had I not been with a family member. daughter. Disgusted, never going again to their Christmas concert.
I just wait outside until the music and jungle drums have stopped then I go in for the remainder of the service. I miss the three part harmony. The music shortens the life of my hearing aids. I’d rather just sit outside and listen to my gospel music, then I’m ready for the word.
I sit outside and listen to my gospel music! 4 part harmony!
I hope I did not get any damage at all . I was exposed to loud church music in a very small building. ( you can hear the music across the street.) when I walked in while the music was playing. It was pretty loud. but after 20 minutes my ears physically hurt and I left.
my ears rang for several days. but my ears seem to be extra sensitive now to loud music. that’ s in nc.
I visited a sc church and they were just blaring it out . I sat down maybe 30 seconds and as I left I told them as to why. I felt like I had ear muffs on my ears after each occasion. what does that mean.
I went to a benny crusade in sc years ago. I literally could not hear people talk after the meeting was over. I saw their lips moving but I could not hear them. JESUS DOES NOT EXPECT US TO PROMOTE OUR PRECIOUS HEARING TO PLEASE THE FLESH OF OTHERS.
Why are so many churches with such loud music that some of us have to wear ear plugs. But who speaks for the infants an children? There has to be a way to stop these loud churches from hurting children and infants.
Your claim that loss begins “after” 30 minutes duration is valid for the very young as in typical concert attendees, where the studies are taken. That study is not valid at older ages. Older attenders at church services suffer ear canal inflammation within mere minutes, if they do not have preexisting earn drum damage. Personally at age 67, I could clearly hear at below 10 decibels at the hearing lab of a well known otolaryngologist. 10 decibels is the sound of a pin drop. Yet, when I attend church, after the new speakers were installed, I and many of the other people aged 61 to 83, with decent hearing, all experience major to severe ear canal pain, which has lasted for me up to 2.5 hours after the service. I feel the pain begin in less than one minute duration so I can’t even sit in the service anymore. They have the treble turned up far to high now so I cannot even endure the speaking part of the sermon after 4 minutes duration after avoiding the music. Who “wants” to change churches? Yet many of us have already left and are trying to find another church to feel at home in, support (after we are sure about their money management – avoiding the get rich preachers) It is terribly frustrating. It is cruel when the pastor is so misinformed, just as the writer of this report I am responding to.
Please read my reply posted a few hours ago. I am sorry for your experience. I will need to ask some great portion of it to be removed.
Thanks for letting me know after you have read it so that I would ask for the removal.
CAN YOU HEAR ME?
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
I AM AMAZED AT THE WAY “WORSHIP” IS EXPRESSED IN THIS GENERATION. THE CASE FOR MIND-NUMBING, LOUD MUSIC CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED. AUDIOLOGISTS KNOW THE SCIENCE BEHIND NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS AND THEY KNOW THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE INNER EAR. FACT IS, LOUD MUSIC (>75dB) IS DAMAGAING WHETHER IT IS A SHORT SPURT OR LONGER. PLEASE DO NOT JUSTIFY LOUD MUSIC IN THE CHURCH: IT IS HARMFUL! GOD HEARS A SPARROW’S SONG, SO DO YOU NOT THINK HE DELIGHTS IN THE VOICE HE GAVE US? WHY DOES THIS GENERATION BELIEVE THEY MUST BLAST THE FLOCK WITH ELECTRONICALLY AMPLIFIED SOUND? DOES THIS GENERATION UNDERSTAND THAT IN 20 YEARS THEY WILL EXPERIENCE A CONTINUAL RINGING IN THE EAR, IF JESUS DOESN’T RETURN? ARE YOU HEARING ME NOW?
Can you hear me?
What about now?
Do you see the difference? I was “shouting” at you before. Now I am talking to you. Do you think it pleases God that His children are modeling the world during “worship”? Do you think it pleases Him that some worship leaders are turning a deaf ear to their brothers and sisters when they say the music is too loud? Why do you make me carry a pair of ear plugs to worship the God I love? Why do you orchestrate an atmosphere that shuts me out so I cannot even hear myself sing His praise?
When I was in the world, I followed the crowd. I attended concerts: Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, Journey… but when I met my Saviour and embraced His Redemption, I turned my back on all of that – ALL OF IT.
It pains me to see the Church following the ways of the world en masse. Please be open to not expose even the youth to loud, harmful music in church. They have all the noise pollution they need.
All I can say in response to your comment is Amen and Amen. Hopefully more will seek to be wise, compassionate and unified and turn the music down.
My church leaders think I am a trouble maker when I raised the concern, sadly.
Hi, Shere. Your statement makes me realize just how wrong the church is for making you out to be the bad guy. Jesus was treated the same way while on earth. My complaints also “fell on deaf ears”. They just do not get it, and they try to make you feel that you are the only one complaining. I wonder how many others there were who mentioned how loud it is that they did not tell me about, and just tried to make me think I am the odd one. I have stopped attending due to the loudness, and the resulting headaches and sheer carelessness of the staff.
I know….we are just keeping quiet about it….they had an earlier service for those that wanted the old hymns lasted about a month and new pastor dropped it…today the base guitar and base drum were so loud you could not even hear the song leader and it went on for 1/2 hour. I will not be going back.// Praise time leads me into worship I will worship with the t.v. family I guess.
The way of all churches are just extensions of the ways of the world in a particular environment, including your idea of a reasonably volumed church. That is still a social construct, not divine in nature, and doesn’t fit for all believers. I know this, as I am a praise and worship leader for one of those loud modern churches. God didn’t stop by at 1955 and say “Yup, sounds great guys, NEVER change.” What if I find it uninspiring to hear praise at such a low volume? What if my entire congregation feels this way? Inoffensive is not the same as universally appealing. There is NO universally appealing church, so yes, when you get that tingly feeling in your ears that makes you feel offended by a particular chruch’s volume, that means that particular church is not for you. This is not a terrible thing, as we aren’t lacking in abundance of churches. Likewise, your church would be completely ineffective for me and my congregation, as I like my praise and worship in the 95-115 db range, definitely loud enough to damage my ears, but everyone at my church, young and old, LOVES it. We’ve had older members tell us to turn it up! You know why? Because try as humanity might, no one can put God in a box. It isn’t our right, and we need not try. There isn’t a wrong way to love God if your heart is reaching out to Him, especially regarding things such as this. What you may view as universally appealing, I truly view as ineffective and watered down, and that is also okay. These are subjective viewpoints by human beings, nothing more, not worth their weight in sand.
Your way isn’t wrong. But you ARE wrong to say that God has some opinion on the pleasantries of worship. The minutiae and micromanagement of the word doesn’t make worship more effective, it makes it more divisive. The only thing we should worry about as a church, from a praise and worship experience, is what our congregation feels is ideal. Ours comes from that old Led Zepplin/Black Sabbath days, some of them still do. And that’s freakin awesome, man. Because as long as they love God, and they like it loud, that’s what we’re gonna do. For your church, you may like it toned down, and at a traditionally reasonable level. That’s awesome too. It isn’t about one of us doing something wrong, it’s that we’re both doing something RIGHT. Loving the Lord. Everything else is gravy, brother. My only request to you is that you not lose sight of WHY you’re there in the first place. If our congregation is happy, then we’re good right? And besides, we have earplugs in the front for anyone that wants em. No one ever does 🙂
All I can say in response to your pathetic remarks (especially, “when you get that tingly feeling in your ears…..”) is that they are insensitive and a poor example of leadership. Sure, if certain people want to go church hunting, and certain churches are too loud for them, they can move on. But, the problem does not stop there. There are many churches, and the number is growing, that were once much more quiet but are now playing the ridiculously loud music. It is not fair to long-time members to have to either wear ear plugs, stop participating in the worship music altogether, or leave and search for a new church that exhibits the selfless love of God. The Lord says that we will be known by our fruits. Well, your fruit says that you are selfish, unkind, inconsiderate, loud….. As well, you obviously know nothing about what the worship of a Christian Church should comprise if you think it is about the loud music. True worship is not about the music itself, therefore, quieter music will not be ineffective for a true believer of Jesus Christ, (who was sensitive to the needs of his sheep). True worship is about glorifying Jesus. It is not glorifying to him when brethren do not care about one another. Loud music that causes pain and discomfort to any members is not a subjective viewpoint. It is a fact. You are a fool if you want to believe and promote that it is just a viewpoint. It is like comparing apples and oranges. You and others like you are the ones being divisive. You are wrong. It is not right to be divisive, and that is exactly what you are doing when you exclude others who cannot participate in your congregation because the music has a negative effect on them physically. Shame on you. Besides, when the music gets too loud, it ceases to be music. The beauty of individual instruments can no longer be heard, whether it is Led Zepplin or Mozart, and all that is audible is noise. Loud noise. The Lord wants us to make a joyful noise to him. He did not say make a loud noise. The Lord wants us to love our neighbor. He did not say, “Love your neighbor as long as he does not ask you to turn the music down because his ears hurt.” Also, older members at your church who tell you to turn the music up are probably already experiencing hearing loss, which is why they want the music turned up. As well, just because they individually want the music turned up does not negate the fact that such loud music hurts others. You might not mind damaging your ears, but be not so foolish as to support that in the congregation. It contradicts the love of Christ.
Dee, I’m sorry that this offends you, but the central issue that has been spoken over and over again is that there seems to be an idea of a perfect worship, and it simply isn’t true. Let me ask you this: if you went into an african american souther baptist church (I’m in Texas, so these are quite common in my area), would you ask them to tone it down in the way that they praise with such joy? Many of those churches are pushing volumes as loud as ours with just voices alone. Would you request a less boisterous style of music in lieu of maybe a piano, or a gentle acoustic? I’m fairly confident that, unless you are attending one of these churches, that you would ever ask them to change. I bet it wouldn’t cross your mind. Why though? Because there is a culture tied to the church that dictates a style of worship that everyone that attends is comfortable with, including a volume and genre style. If a very traditionally caucasian family walked in, I bet they would be welcomed. But they may feel uncomfortable with the way they worship, in the loudness, in the style – mainly because it’s not how they are traditionally comfortable with worshiping. Does that make black churches wrong? Goodness no! Does that make the caucasian family wrong for not feeling it, or even disliking it? Absolutely not! No one is wrong here, but the church was not designed for that particular group, which again, is fine. If you don’t feel that it is fine, then we simply disagree, which is also okay. But I can personally attest to the fact that we do not force anyone to attend, all are there at will, and the praise and worship is a highlight at our particular church. It serves a generation of followers that have felt alienated and abandoned by other churches, that would have not had God in their lives otherwise. The style of worship resonates with them, and they feel connected with each other, and with God because of the very style that you choose to judge one of your brothers in Christ so harshly on. Our church has always come with a warning and ample protection for those that need/request it. It is a format that is new and growing, but we are not the only specialty church out there. Greek orthodox does not fit everyone, neither does episcopalian or southern baptist (predominantly white or black). Hispanic churches, cowboy churches, megachurches, and catholics all alike serve God as we do, but would not change for the world, as they were called for a specific purpose according to God, and yes, some of them have loud music as a rule and not an exception. But I guarantee you that people filter naturally to the churches that resonate with them. People that need us, that need this type of worship, find us. And we love them, and we give them something that other’s do not. You are free to disagree with our style of worship, but if you could look into the eyes of people that have been saved by our church, that needed us when nothing else worked for them, that have been looking for something just like what we are, I bet you wouldn’t be so harsh and damning to us. We serve those that need us, not those that choose to damn a fellow brother/sister in Christ. I would NEVER take away your right to worship the way you choose, yet you seem keen on taking away the right of my congregation and congregations like mine to worship as they have chosen. Again, there are options to reduce the volume that are totally effective if it’s ever chosen, but this isn’t a whimsical choice of ours. This is a deliberate means of reaching a group of people that maybe would have never felt comfortable with where you worship, that may have even felt judged by church such as yours (and frankly, you seem perfectly comfortable with casting judgment, so I’m sorry to say that wouldn’t shock me). We get people that feel alone and abandoned ALL. THE. TIME. By more traditional churches. God did not leave them, and neither will we. We are not the church for you, but there is one for you. A hispanic, greek orthodox, pentacostal, catholic, or southern baptist church may not be the one for you, but there is one for you. They do not cast you out, you simply do not resonate with everything they may do or represent. They are not blasphemers for this, and neither are you. But please stop casting that upon us because we choose to save a unique congregation that desperately needs this type of worship and preaching style. May you come to understand this one day, as we are all on the same team.
This is an ethical issue as well as common sense issue. I feel good so I can do what I want to do, and if you don’t like it you can leave is not a Godly approach in dealing with the loud music at all!
January 14, 2014 at 2:43 am
I have read two of your comments, Brady, and it is obvious you are not reading the comments of the reasons people cannot take the loud volume. You are not listening or caring but only putting your own viewpoints.
You said it besutifully ty so much .
Perfect worship would be about 85 decibels. If hearing loss occurs over 85, then worship is leading to permanent hearing loss among those who attend. They may not notice it until their 50’s, though many young people today seem to experience tinnitis from listening to loud concerts. So if we are to care for our bodies, one way is to avoid loud noise. Church should be the last place to experience damage to the ears. Those who want to turn it up are not wanting to worship better, but to be better entertained in my opinion.
Just try and suggest that a congregation turn the volume down and see what kind of response you receive.
We’ve received downright violent responses to the purely foolish excuses. IT IS VERY DISHEARTENING.
We of The Church need to join in our prayers to The Lord God Jesus addressing this carnal and downright demonic activity that has been let to creep into our congregations. “Little foxes destroy the vine”.
Do electric guitars go to heaven or hell when they die? Think about that one for a while.
Does stained glass go to heaven? Do decibel levels? What weight of decibels? Do our voices? I see that your point is to be a bit smarmy about volume level, but it’s lost on me, mainly because the same claim I’ve been making is ignored, and that is not every church is for every person. That is not about division, it’s about accessibility for those that need to be reached in a specific manner. People are saved in different ways and to attempt to render yourself accessible to all is to render yourself ineffective. We strive to save the unchurched, the worldly, the lost, the rejected, especially those rejected by other Churches. Once we provide an outlet for them that they find accessible, giving them the word in a way that speaks to them, that resonates, in a format that they enjoy, we are confident that we’ve done our job. We provide earplugs for those that want them freely, but everyone at the church is there because they enjoy worshiping in the way we worship. We DO NOT get complaints. You are literally complaining about something that you are not being forced into, that is HELPING people. In what ways has your divisive comment helped the world? I don’t walk into the catholic church a mile away and tell them their service is improper. THAT is divisive and not at all in accordance with the word of God. But I learned a long time ago that the same people that attempt to preach by the letter are legalists that do more at the expense of Christianity and the lost than they ever do for them. We are not appealing to those that wish to divide the church further. We are appealing to those that need us. And by finding us, they’ve found God. Again, a welcoming environment, God, strong and vibrant worship, WITH hearing protection, and you have nothing left but an attempt to divide us. And you won’t. I’m sorry that you wish to be the judge of the world, but He already came. It’s not your place.
I have read the remarks about churches of different faiths and their ways of worship. And not to be even talking about their music which varies from place to place; but our focus is wrong . Leave their music behind and consider that some of these places of worship have doctrines that are contrary to the Bible. There is only one way to heaven and that is thru Jesus Christ (John14:6) and worship is all about God, His standards, and what pleases Him, not us.
And , yes, we had a sister black church visit our church in SC they and did the music.
AND it was not unduly loud and I enjoyed worshipping with them. In fact, one of my heroes is Samuel Morris who God marvelously saved and he was so surrendered to God that people would be convicted when they were around him. And one time he was in the pulpit and gave the altar call and the altar was full of sinners seeking God.
And yes, guitars will go to heaven ( so to speak) IF they are surrendered to God and they will be played as God decrees to bring Him glory , not how we want it, but how God wants it. And I can assure you it will be pleasing to all of us.
Have you studied what is behind the music of today ? And we have let that music creep into the church, just changing the lyrics.
Their theology is weak , it has focus on I, me, we, us, instead of God , which is the whole point and is always wrong. It uses repetitions sometimes 50 times ( which is what false religions do) and the Bible says “avoid vain repetitions”. We reap what we sow and innocents are hurt also with hearing loss, severe headaches, and I read of one young man who died ( he wasn’t in church)
As Christians we have a cultural mandate to help protect and promote health for all people coming to worship and minister to them holistically including mind, body, and spirit.
I agree with you.
The idea that church is “a social construct” ( seriously, such pretentious, sill language)
and not simply the gathering of 2 or more to worship God is an attempt at an end run
around the truth that more and more believers are finally discussing. The modern
American church experience is getting more and more obnoxious. Performance centered,
and ego driven. The point of church is that it is an act of corporate worship. That implies that
it is unified. It is precisely for this reason that for eons people sang in one voice, together. They did not have to wait for the guitar riff or the keyboard solo or for the “worship leader” to decide whether or not they were going to rock out to a 5th abbreviated go at the 3rd sort of stanza of the latest praise song ( which strangely enough is nearly indistinguishable from most of the others)
Time to grow up, again. The hipster high schoolers have been telling the old people to stick earplugs in and keep filling up the plate.
I’m not sure wholly agree that ‘As Christians we have a cultural mandate to help protect and promote health for all people coming to worship’ .. however, I think a strong argument could be made that the Church does have a responsibility to its attendees.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 say: 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
To purposefully create an atmosphere of worship that knowly damages the body, THE temple of the Holy Spirit, is simply unacceptable. I believe this is no different than the Church advocating other activities that are known to damage the body ..
One of the young adults at our church has hearing damage and requested prayer.
After praying for him, I was discussing his hearing loss with him and said that loud church music causes my ears to ring, he told me that he regularly attends Joshua Generation Youth Retreat in Indiana and ‘they play their music very, very loud’.
I request all sound techies reading this – Just because you have the power to do so, please do *not* harm God’s Temple – our bodies!
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Worship should be decent and it good order as Paul told the Corinthians
Never should the sound level be loud enough to cause hearing damage. If this was a work environment (it is for paid staff) OSHA could fine the business for violations of OSHA standards.
Parents who take children to such a service should be charged with child abuse.
Only idiots would prefer loud music. Loud always hides the quality of music.
:Loud music is a sign of the how the pagan world has invaded the church. The children of Israel liked the pagan worship of their neighbors too and continued to erect ashtoreth poles much to God’s displeasure.
I agree with much of what you have said, Hillfarmer, including the comment about child abuse. It really bugs me to see young children and babies, especially, in a church environment that is way too loud for anyone’s comfort and health, because they are not choosing freely to be there.
By the way, I am also a Pagan and I care strongly about noise issues as you do. Wherever did you get the idea that my religion was responsible for high sound levels in Christian churches?
When the music in my church hits 90 decibles my heart rate goes up, I get nauseous, and panicky I have to leave. Its called hypocureism probably spelt that wrong
It is alarming to me the lack of love that is being shown between brothers and sisters in Christ on this thread. While it is not the place of the church to damage hearing, it is most definitely the job of the church to love and reach people. If people are being brought to Christ with 100 db music, can’t you rejoice in that? I understand that loudness can be an issue for some, but wouldn’t you take hearing damage if it means someone is saved eternally? On the opposite side, wouldn’t you take more quiet music that you don’t prefer as much if it means someone has a church to call their home?
It astounds me that some of you could be so harsh and judgmental as to call someone and idiot or a fool for how they prefer to worship the Lord. The Bible tells us to make a JOYFUL noise unto the Lord. Last time I checked, joyful doesn’t have an 85 decibel sound limit on it, and anything louder than 85 db is of the devil. We are called to love each other, and calling someone, let alone your brother in Christ, an idiot or a fool is very very far from love.
@Coby, you say: “It is alarming to me the lack of love that is being shown between brothers and sisters in Christ on this thread!”. I’m wondering if you noticed the irony of your own statement here, in light of what you suggest in the rest of your post, which is basically that it is OK to harm people in the hope that it might bring more people to Christ. Is knowingly causing harm to someone a sign of love?
You also say: “It astounds me that some of you could be so harsh and judgmental”. Yet here you are, being equally harsh and judgmental of those with whom you do not agree, when they say that Christians should not harm others… I’m wondering if this irony of your own words is also lost on you?
@Coby: “While it is not the place of the church to damage hearing, it is most definitely the job of the church to love and reach people. If people are being brought to Christ with 100 db music, can’t you rejoice in that?” No, I can’t rejoice in that, and I don’t know if you noticed the self-contradictory nature of your sentence. You fist say that we should NOT harm people, then you say that we SHOULD harm people if it will get them saved.
Let me summarize your main point, and then illustrate it in other ways, so you can see exactly what it is that you are proposing. You say that if playing harmfully loud music in a church service is good for attracting the unsaved, and good for entertaining the saved, then the church should do that. By your exact same argument, one could claim that providing wine, beer and spirits in church is a good way of attracting the unsaved and entertaining the saved, so churches should do that too. And that providing crack, heroin, LSD, and pot is a good way of attracting the unsaved, and entertaining the saved, thus churches ought to be doing that too. And that providing male and female prostitutes in church is a good way of attracting the unsaved, and entertaining the saved, therefore churches should also do that…
Perhaps you can better see the folly of your suggestion when presented with this logical extensions of what you are promoting: that in order to bring in the unsaved and keep the saved happy, churches should cater to every whim and provide whatever the world calls “pleasure” and “fun” and “happiness”, even if it is harmful, just so people will want to come in and stay. I’m having a real hard time here finding any scriptural justification for that, and on the contrary, I seem to be finding numerous scriptural references that state the opposite.
@Coby: “If people are being brought to Christ with 100 db music, can’t you rejoice in that?”. My paraphrase: “If people are being brought to Christ by giving them free beer, can’t you rejoice in that? If people are being brought to Christ by getting them high on LSD, can’t you rejoice in that? If people are being brought to Christ by providing them with free prostitutes, can’t you rejoice in that?”. In all cases, no I cannot. And I’d have a hard time imagining that Jesus would rejoice in it either.
@Coby: “Last time I checked, joyful doesn’t have an 85 decibel sound limit on it,” Then it would seem you haven’t checked very well! To start with, you aren’t even specifying which decibel scale you are talking about. Repeatedly throughout this thread I have clarified that failing to mention the decibel weighting scale is a major indicator of either ignorance or carelessness. There’s a huge difference between listening to contemporary music at a level of 85 dBC and 85 dBA. One of these could very literally be a hundred times more intense than the other. Yes, I really do mean the number “100” as a multiplication factor. That’s what we are talking about here. So perhaps you could clarify which of these scales you are referring to.
You might also want to review the OSHA and NIOSH research regulations on allowable and harmful levels in the workplace, to see why there is, indeed, a limit on sound levels. There’s nothing joyful about having your hearing apparatus destroyed.
@Coby: “…and anything louder than 85 db is of the devil.” I don’t recall reading that here. Perhaps you could point to the person and post where you say this claim was made? Which poster on this thread said that any sound level “louder than 85 db is of the devil”. I just did a quick search through the thread, and the only person using that phrase seems to be you.
@Coby: “We are called to love each other, and calling someone, let alone your brother in Christ, an idiot or a fool is very very far from love.”. As is accusing your brothers and sisters in Christ who are actually trained in sound and acoustics, who understand it, and who understand the physiological effects that sound has on people, of “lacking love” and being “harsh” and “judgmental” when they say that it is not good to harm fellow Christians with excessively high and potentially damaging sound levels in church.
If you want to harm your own body by listening to excessively loud music, drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs, or engaging prostitutes, then that’s your own business, something for you to discuss in person with the Lord. But suggesting that the church should indulge in the same just to get sinners in the door and keep the saved feeling happy, seems to be the quite opposite of what Jesus taught.
That’s a rather strange statement, Brady: “when you get that tingly feeling in your ears that makes you feel offended by a particular chruch’s volume, that means that particular church is not for you.” In reality, that “tingly feeling in your ears” is simply your body telling you that you just suffered permanent irreversible hearing damage. Tinnitus is a sure sign that physical harm has occurred, and cannot be fixed. It’s your body’s way of warning you of harm.
“as I like my praise and worship in the 95-115 db range, definitely loud enough to damage my ears, but everyone at my church, young and old, LOVES it”: Sorry to be so skeptical, but it does seem rather hard to be believe that people would actually enjoy having their hearing destroyed. At 115 dB, that happens in just a few minutes. The damage shows up initially as a loss of around 30 dB in hearing, which recovers to about 90% of what it was after a day or so, provided that there are no further loud noises within that time.
“We’ve had older members tell us to turn it up! You know why?” My guess would be because you had already deafened them the last time they came, so they can no longer hear it very well….
“There isn’t a wrong way to love God if your heart is reaching out to Him, especially regarding things such as this.” I would respectfully disagree with that: Loving God in any way that harms your body is wrong. Loving God in any way that harms someone else is even more wrong. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 In fact, I would go so far as to say that doing something in the name of God that causes harm to yourself and others, cannot even be called “love” at all. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“What you may view as universally appealing, I truly view as ineffective and watered down, and that is also okay.” Sorry, but once again I must respectfully disagree. It is not “okay”. Hurting others is not okay. Hurting members of your own congregation is most certainly not okay.
“These are subjective viewpoints by human beings, nothing more, not worth their weight in sand.” Having your hearing destroyed by a church sound system hardly seems like something one could call a “subjective viewpoint”.
“But you ARE wrong to say that God has some opinion on the pleasantries of worship”. I would be very interested in hearing your Biblical support for that position. My Bible seems to somewhat different from yours in that aspect. It does not agree with you at all.
“The only thing we should worry about as a church, from a praise and worship experience, is what our congregation feels is ideal. ” I would suggest that it might be better to worry about what God considers ideal: I have a feeling that causing bodily harm to ones brothers and sisters in Christ, would not fall into that category.
“If our congregation is happy, then we’re good right?”. Perhaps not: Proverbs 16:25. Proverbs 12:15.
“the central issue that has been spoken over and over again is that there seems to be an idea of a perfect worship, and it simply isn’t true.”. I don’t see anyone here saying that there is “an idea of a perfect worship”. What most people seem to be saying here, is that sound waves can cause physical damage to human ears, and that causing physical damage to your congregation is just plain wrong. You seem to be confused about this concept of what you call “worship”, and the concept of not harming your brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how much of a “right” you think you have to play music as loud as you want, I would suggest that you do NOT have the right, either Biblically, morally, or ethically, to inflict physical harm on your congregation. If you think you DO have such a right, then I would ask that you provide the scriptural reference that gives you such a right.
“Many of those churches are pushing volumes as loud as ours with just voices alone.” Sorry, but that is a physical impossibility. A single person shouting loudly will hit maybe 85 dB measured 1 meter away (standard distance). So you’d need to cram 64 people into one square meter in order to reach 100 dB, and they’d all have to be yelling at the top of their lungs, no singing. Yet you say your levels are ten times higher than that… You are seriously mistaken if you think a large number of people singing loudly can outdo even a small sound system. Just a simple 5w guitar practice amp can easily outdo your very best effort to equal it. It simply is not technically possible for a group of people (no matter how large the group is) to “out-.sing” even a small sound system. The human voice just is not capable of putting out that much sound energy. Not even a hundred thousand voices together. You don’t seem to have any concept of sound energy, sound power, sound pressure level, decibels, or the capabilities of speakers, amps, people and instruments. So since your basic premise is wrong, your argument is invalid, and so is your conclusion.
Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are arguing out of ignorance, not knowledge, trying to defend a position that is indefensible, both technically and Biblically. You cannot justify your decision to harm your congregation in this way. Nor in any other way.
“You are free to disagree with our style of worship,”. Once again, this isn’t about “style of worship”: it is about physically harming your congregation, which by your own admission you are doing, knowingly and happily and deliberate. Sacrificing the ears of your congregation on the altar of ignorance and stubborn pride is not a defensible position.
“You are literally complaining about something that you are not being forced into, that is HELPING people.” Come again? How is destroying somebody’s hearing “helping them”? That’s a rather strange way to “help” someone…
“but if you could look into the eyes of people that have been saved by our church,” Perhaps it isn’t their eyes you should be concerned about: Perhaps it is their ears where you should be focusing your attention. Have you looked into their ears? have you looked into your own ears, in the sense of having a full spectrum audiology test done on them? If not, then I’d suggest hat now would be a good time to do that.
“Again, there are options to reduce the volume that are totally effective if it’s ever chosen,”: Wrong again. And again, it is out of ignorance: Typical Earplugs provide about 20 dB of protection. Assuming your claimed preference level of 115 dB, good earplugs would bring that down to about 95 dB: that’s still very loud, and still causes harm. It just takes longer to cause the harm, but you are still causing it.
Brady, I’m really, really sorry that you have so little love for your congregation that you would allow them to be hurt, physically, by your sound system. Yes, I hear you say how wonderful it is, and how they all love it, etc, blah, blah, blah, and I hear you repeating your mantra that this is just a “style” of worship, and that all “styles” are good and fine. But I put it to you that NOT all styles of worship are good and fine (for example, “worship” involving drunkenness, sexual immorality, disorderly behavior, etc. are all not acceptable, Biblically). And I put it to you that what you call a “style” is not even a style at all: it is an abomination, since it causes physical harm to the very people that it is your duty to protect. A pastor is supposed to protect and care for the sheep in his fold: I do not see any justification anywhere in my Bible, for a pastor to abuse the sheep entrusted to him, even if they do happen to enjoy being abused, as you claim they do.
I like you Stuart. How old are you? Are you a musician? If so, what instruments do you play? Also & lastly, have you ever been on a worship team/band?
Brady, the reason I do not put in the ear plugs is because the many times I tried, it did not help. At one point I was getting formation of wax in my ear drums which was a way for my ears to protect from the loud volume, I guess. Anyway, I did not realize that pushing in the plugs was causing the wax to get impacted. I became deaf in one ear, which eventually healed. If you had the problem, you would change the aggravating way you are communicating.
Same with me exactly. The plugs aren’t being used because we know that at a certain level, it is still too loud. They told me to go to the back of the church and put the earplugs in and you’ll be fine. I was not fine. Still too loud. Feel it in chest palpitations and headaches. I’m guessing their hearing is not as good as mine. Sadly, I live in such a small town, it’s hard to find a church that is like the churches I remember in the old days. Instead, hey all want to attract the young. Even the ones that used to be different have changed. The choir is gone, the pews have been exchanged for single chairs, sub-woofers have been added. Even the stricter dress codes changed. So not only is the music like the world, but the dress codes too. When I was a kid in the 70s, I never thought there would be a day where I would see girls wearing shorts and mini-skirts in church. Of course, even when I was young, loudness was not for me. I would think common sense would tell even youth that being that loud is harmful. Perhaps that is why I hear so good today, when others my age have lost much of their hearing, because I have protected mine and continue to try to protect my hearing.
So you say the people in your church love it loud, and that if a person doesn’t like it loud then they can go somewhere else. Well, are you being honest with yourself and the situation? I know that individuals in our churches sound booth and individuals that have more influence and power with the decisions that are made in our church love to say that the people like the volume the way it is. However, I happen to know that is not true for a very large number of people that attend. Some of these people are afraid to say anything because they think they will be ostracized. Some of them think that they are all by themselves in this opinion. Most of these people do not want to leave the church because they have been members of this church for more than 15 years. The volume of the music that we have now is not what it was when these people chose this church in the first place. This situation has changed since new leadership stepped in. So with your guidelines I guess the old members should just move out and let new people coming to the church take over.
Maybe the ear plugs should be in the back where people wouldn’t be embarrassed to pick some up.
Just a quick neutral note–perhaps moving the ear plugs to the back of the church, where people can pick them up as they come in and NOT have to go to the front where the painful speakers are would be a better plan. Those who want ear plugs do not want to be close to the speakers! Personally, I bring my own.
It was a noisy world: a church worship experience by Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao on July 18th, 2012
One summer afternoon of late June in a 4:30 pm Video Café service in my church, Mary followed me to the third row. As soon as she put her stuff down, standing right next to me, she said, “This is too loud, I can’t hear a thing.” Her reaction reminded me of my husband’s tinnitus problem. I told her that I will let them know. She said, “They won’t listen.” I was shocked by her statement. How does she know that the leader of my church won’t care about the congregation’s hearing health. Considering that my poor husband just came back home from his second hospitalization, I immediately feel that I am obligated to remind church leaders regarding the well beings of the attendees of Video Café services., after all the worship leader is ministering to the whole person- mind, body, and the spirit. As a Christian we have a cultural mandate of keeping the noise under the tolerance level in any Christian gathering. The worship leader Joel was happened to be the Director of WAC, Worship Art Community, of which I am also part of as I sing in the choir. He would still play his guitar with other musicians on the platform when we were asked to extend peace greetings to each other. Sure enough, Mary and I couldn’t hear each other when we tried to carry a normal conversation. If you observe people walking down the State Street, you can see that most of people wear their earphone listening to music. My 80 plus year old neighbor also wears her earphone listening to her iPod music. Americans are exposed to sound everywhere in our daily lives. Just look people crossing street at State Street near on campus, almost all students are wearing headsets with their iPad/iPhone, listening to music of some sort!
I have never heard of tinnitus before my husband Jeff’s own experience. He has been deeply affected by it since last December. His gentle spirit and personality just don’t go well with the constant high-pitch sound ringing in his right hear first and then occasionally played in his left ear as well. He tried many things to manage the craziness in his head but none of them helped. Eventually he was spiralled down to sever depression with psychotic feature in middle of last May. One thing he blamed himself the most is that he didn’t protect himself from the loud sounds when he was younger. That got me thinking of the health of my own hearing ability. I know one of my ears has some problem; it can’t hear the high-pitch sound. I didn’t get an offer from my first and only job interview in Taipei after having my BS because I failed the hearing test.
I remember that Jeff told me that if two people are talking and they can’t hear each other, then that means the noise is too loud and could be louder than 85dB (decibel). What is a decibel, you might wonder? “Decibels are a measurement of sound just as inches and feet measure distance. According to NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) 85 decibels (dBA) is safe for up to 8 hours. That is 8 hours over a 24-hour period. That means that you can be working in a factory or other occupation where the noise level is 85dBA for 8 hours and most people will be fine. But if you then go to the shooting range or dancing at loud club, or go into your workshop after work, you add more noise to the equation.” (from Dangerous Decibels website: http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/about-us/the-issues/) After that carved time, I moved myself to the back section of the chairs again the wall for the music was really too loud for me in that auditorium of 450 seating capacity. I also am concern that smaller size of the room with the same level of decibel, the impact on each people’s ear drum might be higher.
According to the above website, approximately 10 million persons in the U.S. have permanent hearing loss from noise or trauma, 12.5% of 6-19 year old in the U.S. (5.2 million) have documented evidence of elevated hearing thresholds directly attributed to noise exposure, and 40 to 50 million Americans have tinnitus, one-quarter of them to a severity that they seek medical help. I worry that some young people of next generation, from age 0 to 18, who don’t know that they need to protect their hearing when they are young just like my husband and then regrate later in life when the lost hearing will never be recovered.
The ratio of artistic children and adults and all of those who on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is about one in seventy as we now know verses one in two hundred just some two years ago, based on the statistics data given by American Autism Society. Those who with high functioning autism like PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) and Asperger’s might not formally diagnosed since some of them are holding their jobs in the workplace. However, once they have tinnitus, they could be devastating, as they just don’t have the same tolerance ability to constant high pitch sound ring in their ears as neuro-typical functioning people does. I am speaking as the first eyewitness of one married to a gentle and brilliant man with a undiagnosed asperger issue for fifteen years until Jeff is suffering from it leading to clinical depression with psychosis.
My conscience urges me to speak up even if my husband’s suffering has nothing to do with a particular church’s worship service. As Christians we have a cultural mandate to help protect and promote health of all people coming to worship and minister to them holistically including mind, body, and spirit.
Peace and grace,
I snail mailed the above article to my Senior Pastor after email exchanges expressing my concerns to the Director of WAC. It so happened that the font was very small. Well I sent it anyway.. Maybe he could sense the pain by not being able to read just as I also suffered by the loud music in Sunday worship. Since than the volume has been turned down. Thank God!!!
I have been trying to see if I can bring a law suit against loud audeo in Christian churches. In all christian churches! I have communicated with the UCLU. I have communicated osha, I will not give up. I will bring a law suit, some how even if I have to bring law suit against not the church but simply the audeo operator. This loud audeo has gotvti be controlled. Just think of what we are doing to our young children through no fault of them. Osha or the ACLU has got to control the loud audeo devils that reside in supposedly christisn churches.
“I have been trying to see if I can bring a law suit against loud audeo in Christian churches. ” Good for you Joe! The Bible actually has guidance for you, on how you should go about suing a church:
1 Corinthians 6:1-7
It also has guidance on what the outcome will probably be for you:
And what you should do about that, too:
Probably your best chance would be to follow James 1:5
I pray that you will be blessed in pursuing your quest for Godly justice, provided that you do it Biblically, as outlined above.
When churches do not submit to the authority of the Bible (Matthew chap 18 etc.), it is permitted to sue them. Then they are no longer churches, but businesses masquerading as the body of Christ.
“I have to bring law suit against not the church but simply the audeo operator. ” Why would you want to sue the guy who is NOT responsible for the sound levels in the church? The sound operator does not have control of the levels in the church. That’s a myth. If you want to succeed in your legal proceedings, you should probably sue those who are really responsible for the sound levels during praise and worship.
Although, I think the lawsuit sounds like a good idea, I feel like it would violate what the Bible says about Christians suing other Christians.
Please see my comment on Jan 5, 2018 about why it is permissible to sue a believer when they are not subject to the authority of the Bible.
Amen! I know of people leaving church because of loud music. Loud music or sounds have ALWAYS hurt my ears and it still does.
It gave me such a splitting headache in church that I didn’t hear much of the message. I know in heaven the music will be all about God and what He wants. It will be beautiful, with a melody, and harmony and ALWAYS pointing to God; not what I like or what anyone else likes, but what brings glory to God.
I don’t believe in lawsuits in a church because of the loud music. So I feel there must be a way of handling that loud agonizing music in a godly manner. And I have been praying about how to handle the situation. It does seem that most churches have ear splitting loud music, so you can’t get away from it. I also believe that God commands us to go to church (Hebrews 10:25).
My ears have been ringing and a headache since loud music yesterday. And as a pastor’s wife I don’t believe in causing trouble in a church. And I have been researching this music for some years. I fear from what I have read that the purpose of this music is to agitate your spirit so you can’t focus on the message which is great.
My question to everyone IS who do we think God is? God is able to do whatever He wants with no gimmicks to attract people to church. No where in the Bible does it say we are to entertain or amuse anyone. One of my professors in seminary put a block under the organ pedal because it was too loud and that was hymns. We are to be reverent and worshipful before a holy God and strive to bring Him glory. The hymns were full of good theology and I sometimes read them in my devotions. And I notice that we have all but taken the hymns about the Blood and the Cross out of our singing. Without the precious shed blood of the Savior none of us would be saved. My question is : is that loud music bringing glory to God? We will stand before Him someday to answer for our deeds. I desire to bring Him glory!
I am thanking God for parents ( Dad was a pastor & evangelist) who gave us a strong Biblical upbringing. We had no tv, records, and Dad had us listening to good gospel broadcasts on the radio.
Have we forgotten that going to church is to Meet With God and to bring Him glory.
Is loud, repetitive , dissonant music bringing God glory? We say that we must attract the youth. Do we think that God needs entertainment in His church to attract anyone? And is the church not for everyone? Is it godly to destroy the hearing and cause severe headaches to those who
can’t tolerate loud music? I have been in stores and restaurants all over the country and though I don’t like most of the music it isn’t anywhere near as loud as much of church music. Is that loud music making us more godly and preparing us to hear the message? Does this music help us strive to be more holy and Christ like? The Bible says in Heb 12: 14 that without holiness no one will see God. You know it is not what you and I like but what glorifies God. And I Know God means exactly what He says in His Word.
Thank you for your recent post (2016). This is still going on and today I sat with my fingers in my ears, again. Spoke to a father behind me who had his infant, telling him the loud music is not good for his child. Hope he listens.
Well said. God has never needed our help regarding music, to try and attract people to church, the young or others. The job of Christians is to spread the good news and be a witness. If the young people or others do not feel moved to come to a church because they think the music is boring, they probably would think the message is boring, also. When you try to attract using things of the way the world does things, the church ends up making a lot of compromises and ends up becoming more like the world.
I am reading this blog in year 2014 and have suffered hearing damage from staying in a church that had extreme loud services (95 – 105 dba typical). Children would cup their ears because it was so loud. Many wore ear plugs (I did). There was a blind couple that was in the church for awhile. They sit in the back but had to leave the church too. Their hearing was all they had left! We spoke with the pastor continually for a period of over two years. Promises made. Sound levels down for a season but then…back up to deafening levels. I now wear a hearing aid and have ringing in the ears. It is not fun and no worship experience is worth it. My advice would be to get out of your church within three months if there is no real change. There is nothing spiritual about hearing loss!
The issue is why put our brothers and sisters at risk? If someone says they hurt, are we not sensitive to their experience? I am not an audiologist, but have consulted with one. This is an epidemic in the Church! Jesus taught us to sacrifice self for others. My observation over the last 20 years is that the world has overcome the Church, not only on this issue, but via divorce, inappropriate recreation (too much amusement) and neglect of the poor. Many believers warehouse their elderly parents. This should not be! The western church has lost its way; there is a deeper spiritual issue at hand. Denial of self and humility is the example we receive from our Master. Give me a valid reason why music should be so loud that it drives people away. Do you think this pleases the Lord? Youth are filled with energy, that is a given, but that energy needs to be channeled into productive service, not on stage like secular ”rock stars”. If we are honest with ourselves, we will search our souls and seek the Holy Spirit to curb our ego. If youth believe their ‘gift’ is of the Lord, then by all means – go outside the walls of worship and hold public concerts to win the lost for Christ instead of driving away fellow believers!
Amen, well said!
It is not just decibels of sound, but also pressure of sound. Running 95db at 100k of pressure is not painful but running 90db over 200k can be very painful for many. In the church I am leaving, the db runs from 85-121 but the pressure is almost always at or above 200k but the guys running the soundboard refuse to take sound technician training, even online.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_pressure – scroll down page to bottom righthand side to see chart lines.
http://www.advanced-noise-solutions.co.uk/noise-training.html – example of online training courses available. Many soundboard companies have sound tech training. It is not expensive nor time consuming.
However, ignorance in sound management can diminish church attendance by those who do NOT have damaged hearing.
I suggest, that every church that has Christian Rock music get their soundboard tech trained or drop the rock music for music that is more worshipful in nature.
Ron, I Kindly submit that you have no idea what you are talking about. I am not minimizing your concern, or your church techs need for training but you are citing information that you do not understand. Both sets of numbers you are talking about are different scales of measurement for the same thing…Sound Pressure. Kind of like Celsius and Fahrenheit. Decibels and Pascal’s are both measurements of sound pressure level.
The training link you included is for industrial noise control. Pretty much irrelevant to anyone needing training in proper audio mixing.
Please don’t throw out irrelevant information into an already confusing and divisive subject. It only harms those trying to do the right thing and does not help your argument.
I have to agree with Doug here.
“It is not just decibels of sound, but also pressure of sound.” Sorry, but it is exactly the same thing! The decibels measured by a sound level meter are showing you the sound PRESSURE level. That’s why they are referred to as dB SPL. That’s exactly what the meter is measuring: sound pressure.
“Running 95db at 100k of pressure is not painful but running 90db over 200k can be very painful for many.”. That doesn’t even make sense, Ron. It isn’t even possible. Normal air pressure at sea level is roughly 100,000 Pascals. Playing music at a level of 95 dB causes a pressure variation of less than 1 Pascal. So the variation is about 1 part in one hundred thousand. In other words, the pressure varies between about 99,999.5 and 100,000.5 Pascals. There is very little actual power in a sound wave at that level, even though it sounds loud to us.
“In the church I am leaving, the db runs from 85-121 but the pressure is almost always at or above 200k “. Once again, that is simply nonsensical rambling. A pressure of 200,000 Pascals is absolutely, totally impossible. The highest atmospheric pressure ever recorded on the planet was 108,330 Pascals. Playing extremely loud music at 130 dB (the loudest rock concert ever recorded) would cause that pressure to vary by about 64 Pascals, between roughly 108,298 and 108,362. So your claim that you measured pressure levels of 200,000 Pascals inside your church, is laughable and ludicrous. It never happened. Sorry. You might believe that you measured such a level, but in reality you most certainly did not. Which leads to the obvious question: How did you even measure it? I don’t know of any normal barometers capable of measuring such extreme pressures.
“Many soundboard companies have sound tech training. It is not expensive nor time consuming.” I’ll have to disagree with that too. I would estimate that it took me several years to learn enough and gain enough experience that I can comfortably operate most consoles in most venues. You can’t train a sound tech in a few days. Not even a few weeks. I have been training my assistant for about three years now: he’s almost ready to handle a Sunday service on his own.
“However, ignorance in sound management can diminish church attendance by those who do NOT have damaged hearing.” And gross ignorance of physics, mathematics, sound and acoustics, as you display here, can diminish the attempts of the rest of us who are really trying to promote the concept of reasonable, measurable, safe, sound levels in churches. It would be beneficial if you would not make claims such as these, since they only muddy the waters, and mislead others who are trying to understand these very complex issues. Acoustics is confusing, complicated and non-intuitive at the best of times. Having someone who doesn’t understand any of it loudly pretending that they do, is not notably helpful.
After we had experiences of sound levels around 98dB, my wife and I scheduled a meeting with our pastor and chair of the elders. I dd lots of research ahead of time and presented our concerns in detail. We co-developed a plan for getting the sound system under control. We established an agreement that the sound would not exceed 85dB, knowing at times it may spike over for a few seconds depending on the song, We purchased two sound meters, one for the sound booth and one for me to monitor the soound and write down the sound levels for each song if I saw violations beyond the agreement. Just recently, a new sound tech decided to really push the bass which caused the sounf level to elevate back into the 90’s. The elders have now taken up this issue again and reported back to me today a get well plan. The chair of the elders has also encouraged me that if there are others in the congregation complain the music is too loud, to have them talk to him. In my research, I found an article that states churches can be held liable for causing damage to one’s hearing. I don’t think any church wants a lawsuit handed to them. I for one, would like to see that just to set a precedence and stop this foolishness. As important, a church has an ETHICAL responsibility. After all, it is NOT God’s desire that a church band wants nothing better than to destroy the human ear- something he created.
Corporate worship is different than parallel individual worship. If ideal worship is just “me and God” then true corporate worship in a church service can be deemed optional, and unfortunately, for many it is.
I believe there are at least 2 parts to worship in church: the vertical where we address God directly with our words, songs, actions, etc., and also the horizontal corporate action where other people witness, overhear, and join with our worship as we “preach to one another” using the words of the songs, readings, etc.
One problem is that we unwittingly make the corporate dimension very difficult for the simple fact that we just can’t hear one another in many worship settings. This effectively eliminates the horizontal component of worship. This is not a style based issue.
I just submitted my doctoral dissertation last week on the effect of congregational volume on one’s encouragement to sing. Keep in mind, that my results are based on what my test subjects wanted to hear of the rest of the congregation, not the sound system. After all, what a congregation hears of itself is what happens when the sound system is turned OFF.
Here is what I found. This is not opinion, but the average response of 35 test subjects which is a statistically valid number of responses.
The ideal volume at which to hear the rest of the congregation was 81 dB. The ideal volume at which to sing while hearing the congregation at 81 dB was about the same: 80 dB. The people felt best about singing at those levels.
At 85 dB congregational level, responses to questions like: “I felt I could worship under these conditions” and “The balance between my voice and the congregation was good” began to drop. And 90 dB and above was found to be a DISCOURAGEMENT to singing.
Most fascinating was that the louder the congregational volume, the louder the test subjects sang. However, above 90 dB they disagreed with the statements like “I can worship under these conditions” and “If given a chance, I would sing again at these levels.” This means that while people may sing louder at louder congregational levels, they don’t like it and don’t even feel they can worship properly.
Is this a style based issue? No. Pipe organs can overwhelm a congregation just as much as a sound system belting out a worship team can.
Want to help people to sing? Let them hear themselves as a congregation. This involves acoustics and volume levels of all types of accompaniment.
I went to a church recently and it was so loud that I had to leave. Even when the speaker talked it was too loud. What is the point in cranking the volume? WHat about those of us that don’t want our hearing damaged?
Shout to the Lord all the earth, break out in praise and sing for joy. Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King. Psa 98
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth! Yea, make a loud noise. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Psa 100
When David danced for joy in his ephod and shouted praises to God, his wife chastised him for acting in a way that she thought was unbecoming. God blessed David for worshipping with all his heart and cursed his wife with barrenness for worrying about her appearance.
God likes loud music and He loves it when His children shout for joy in worship. Forget about your eardrums and play it loud. It will make Jesus smile!
@Aaron, you said “Forget about your eardrums and play it loud. It will make Jesus smile!” It seems that you are saying Christians should do some things that will cause harm to their body in an attempt to “make Jesus smile”? I’m not so sure Jesus would smile about that people harming their bodies. Destroying your eardrums, or any other part of the body, just because it feels good does not seem like something that would make Jesus smile.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Cor. 3:16-17
As far as I can see, God’s word here implies that would should NOT damage our bodies, and on the contrary should take care of them as much as possible.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20
The second one is in the context of sexual immorality, not sound levels that cause hearing damage, but the principle is the same: as “temples of the Holy Spirit”, our bodies should be protected from harm, not deliberately exposed to harm just because it feels good.
Loud music is fine…, provided that it does not cause harm or discomfort. For most people, the level where that happens is at a sound pressure level of around 100 dBC (note the “C” in there: that means something! Many people who have commented on this article don’t understand decibels, and mention levels without qualifying them. The “C” in that “dBC” refers to a specific scale that is used for measuring loud sounds. It is NOT the same as the “A” weighted scale that is used for measuring quiet environmental noise. That scale is not appropriate for measuring the loudness of music in a church service.)
I’ll take the opportunity to repeat what I have said several times here already: 66 dBC – 96 dBC is a reasonable range limit for sound levels in church services. Higher can be harmful and/or uncomfortable, lower can be unintelligible.
One does not need to understand the decibel scale to know that ones’ ears are ringing and experiencing discomfort.
Our bodies have a way of communicating to the mind when harmful effects are occurring.
At 92 db, I feel ringing in my ears and have discomfort.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy”
Be very careful when you dogmatically say that it is alright to raise sound levels to 92-96 dB.
Yes, we should make a joyful noise to the Lord, AFTER unplugging the artificial electronic sound amplifiers that can destroy eardrums.
God wants us to shout for joy with our voices, and not the powerful and artificial electronic sound amplifiers that anyone can crank up.
For all you sound technicians out there that crank up the sound levels to 90 dB and over, you have forgotten that your role is to enable people to hear. Instead you are destroying people’s hearing. Be careful that God will judge you.
@Anil, you said “At 92 db, I feel ringing in my ears and have discomfort.” And which decibel scale did you measure that on? As I keep pointing out, tirelessly on this thread, spouting off decibel numbers without mentioning which scale you are talking about is rather ingenuous at best, and meaningless at worst. It indicates a lack of understanding of what decibels really measure.
If you feel ringing in your ears at 92 dBC (NOTE the “C” in there: it really does mean something!) then you should probably go see an audiologist or other qualified medical professional, since that might well be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs attention. 92 dBC is about the level you would typically find in a noisy restaurant, so if that level causes you discomfort, that would be cause for concern, medically. The threshold for pain for most people is about one thousand times as loud as that, at around 120 dBC. The fact that you experience pain at a level that is only a very tiny fraction of the normal level, indicates that something might be wrong.
“Be very careful when you dogmatically say that it is alright to raise sound levels to 92-96 dB.” Once again, I did not say that. Please pay attention, and please don’t misquote my words: I said that a range of 66 dBC to 96 dBC is reasonable for churches. That is VERY different from saying that a range of 66 db to 96 dB is reasonable for churches. The fact that you consistently neglect to identify which decibel scale you are referring to is interesting: leaving off the scale identifier is a sure sign that you don’t really understand decibels, and therefore are not qualified at all to tell those of us who DO understand them (and who use them all day every day) what to do with them.
For the record: decibels are NOT like miles, pounds, gallons, or degrees, because they are not units of measurement! They are units of COMPARISON, in exactly the same way as percentage points are units of comparison. A decibel measurement compares the measured level against a reference level, and the notation after the “dB” symbol indicates which reference level or reference scale is being used. If there is no notation, then the scale is unknown and the number is meaningless: Saying that your ears ring “at 92 decibels” is just as silly as saying that they ring “at 127%”. Unless you specify “percent of what”, that is a meaningless statement. Likewise, unless you specify “decibels compared to what”, 92 dB is a meaningless number.
Most articles in the generally uninformed press use “decibels” obliviously, as though it is the same as measuring inches or minutes on a fixed, regular scale. It isn’t. For one thing, the decibel scale isn’t even linear: not all decibels are the same! Some are bigger than others, depending on where they fall on the scale. Most uneducated authors use “decibels” in their articles from ignorance, not from understanding. They think (like you do) that the level they see on a meter is always the same, no matter how the meter is set, but that simply is not the case. I matters GREATLY how you set the controls on the meter. If you set it to “A” weighting and “fast” response, you will get a very, very different reading from setting it to “C” weighting and slow response, which is how it should be set for measuring loud music. The “C” scale is far more sensitive to low frequencies, so it will show a much HIGHER number for QUIET music that includes drums, bass guitar, keyboards, and such like, as compared to the much LOWER number that would be displayed with the meter set to “A” weighting.
In other words, if you have a sound level meter set to “A”, and it is showing a level of 96 dBA, that would be a very, very loud sound, since the meter is measuring that WITHOUT CONSIDERING ALL THE LOW FREQUENCIES. If you were to switch the meter to “C” weighting WHILE MEASURING THE SAME SOUND, you could expect to see a level of anywhere up to about 130 dBC, which is deafening.
On the other hand, if you set your meter to “C” and see a reading of 96 dBC while listening to bass-heavy music, and you then adjust the meter to the “A” scale WHILE MEASURING THE SAME MUSIC, the reading would drop to much lower number, anywhere down to around 60 dBA.
In both cases, the music is the SAME level, but the method for measuring it changed, and therefore so did the reading.
So, one more time: saying that your ears ring at 92 dB is meaningless unless you say how that level was measured, and on which scale, with which time integration factor.
And I will repeat once again, that a level of 66 dBC to 96 dBC is reasonable and suitable for music in a church (Note the “C” in there! It means something!).
And I will stand by that statement adamantly and even “dogmatically” (as you put it), because it is correct, valid, and supported technically and medically. Those are suitable levels for speech and music to be audible, intelligible, and non-harming in a typical church. The reason I will continue to stand by those numbers is because I understand what they actually mean, and because I am specifying the scale on which I say they should be measured.
“For all you sound technicians out there that crank up the sound levels to 90 dB and over, you have forgotten that your role is to enable people to hear. Instead you are destroying people’s hearing. ” All I can do is smile in condescending exasperation at that comment. It, too, is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. It is an ignorant statement, since it does no specify the decibel scale to be used, and it is an ignorant statement because eardrums are not “destroyed” by 90 dB sound levels on either scale. Eardrums don’t rupture until levels of about 160 dBC (perhaps 180 dBA), which is roughly one million times more intense (and yes, I do mean literally one million times, not figuratively: 160 dB really is one million times more sound intensity than 90 dB, as you would know if you understood decibels at all).
“One does not need to understand the decibel scale to know that ones’ ears are ringing and experiencing discomfort.” Perhaps not, but one DOES need to understand the various decibel scales (there are several, not just one) to be able to dogmatically claim, like you did, that God Himself will judge all sound engineers who play music at “90 dB and over”…. It might not be a good idea to put words in God’s mouth, if he never actually said any such thing.
You appear to be very educated in the science of noise. I am not. Thank you for typing your response. I am in the process of searching out a good sound level in my church. Myself and others have complained about it being too loud.
A Christian’ body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And it is not glorifying to God to destroy our hearing with the super loud music in church ( of all places where we should be reverent and quiet before a Holy God, thinking about Him ). And I have read of people who have dropped dead on a certain beat of this music , disturbs their heart rhythm .
John MacArthur has a book out ” when the church becomes like the world” is sub title.
Dan Lucarini ‘s book, “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement”
“Crisis in Christian Music” by Dr Jack Wheaton
” Danger of a Shallow Faith” by A W Tozer
I fear for our churches that want big churches, big budgets, big crowds, entertainment , and does it feel good? After a dose of this super loud music our minds are in no condition to be quiet before God to hear what He says, because we are either agitated or numbed.
The theology in this loud music is shallow at best and never compares with the deep theology of most of the hymns.
“There’s a great day coming , a great day coming,
There’s a great day coming by and by,
When the saints and the sinner’s shall be parted right and left.
Are you ready for that day to come?”
And this is the most important question for you who control this loud music; do you do it for God’s glory or because you like and demand it?
@Joni, you said: “@Stuart – You appear to be very educated in the science of noise. I am not. Thank you for typing your response. I am in the process of searching out a good sound level in my church. Myself and others have complained about it being too loud.”
Thank you for the kind words!
There are many factors that go into choosing a limit for the sound level in any given church, but when I teach seminars for training church sound engineers and musicians, I do set a level of 96 dBC as being about as loud as you’d want to go for typical Sunday services in typical contemporary churches. 90 dBC would be more suitable if the room itself is overly reverberant or resonant, or if the congregation is largely elderly. 80 dBC might be OK for some circumstances, but many congregations would find that not loud enough, with some people being unable to clearly distinguish the lyrics.
Those are the levels for music: The level for the sermon or other spoken word should be around 10 to 20 dB lower, in the range 65 dBC to 85 dBC.
Please note the “C” qualifier in all of those numbers above. Loud sounds should be measured using “C” weighting on the meter, not “A”. This is usually a simple switch setting on most sound level meters, but way too many people don’t know about that, and don’t even understand what it means. So when you use your meter, make sure that you use the correct setting.
Basically C-weighting more closely mimics the way human ears perceive loud sounds with significant bass content, while A-weighting more closely mimics the way human ears perceive quiet sounds, or those with less bass content.
Also, in your quest for finding a good level for your church, do make sure that you use a proper hand-held sound level meter of good quality and reputable brand, not an app on a cell phone! Phone apps are not much use, because the microphone on a cell phone is not the right type (not omni-directional), and does not have the correct characteristics to get accurate readings (designed for voice, not music). You’ll need a real meter. These days they cost around US$ 100 or so. (Stay away from the cheap Chinese ones; those are basically just toys, even worse then cell phone apps.)
But regardless of the actual level, what I also teach in seminars is that the level should sound natural and normal. For the spoken word, it should sound like the pastor is standing a few feet in front of you, speaking at normal levels, or slightly above normal level. For the praise and worship, it should sound as loud as you would have it in your car, when you are listening to a song that you turned up because you really like it a lot. (Perhaps just a little louder). Or as loud as it would be in a movie theater that is showing a movie about a contemporary music performance.
When the sound is so loud that it no longer sounds natural, normal, pleasant then it’s too loud. For most people these days with contemporary music, that point is around 96 dBC, give or take a few.
@Stuart Allsop, No, I will not go out an buy a $300 sound meter just because you say it is inaccurate. In fact the decibel android app which measures dbA is quite accurate – at the church we used to attend and that played very loud music refused to turn it down, I would go to the sound booth and compare my app reading with their sound meter reading – it was very close.
I am horrified that you are (supposedly) giving “seminars” that 96 dBC is acceptable. Please read the comment by Barbara, an audiologist – she says that 90-95dB will cause hearing loss.
Recently we attended the Toby Mac concert (on 3/30/2017) at the Sears Center in Chicago land. It has a world-class sound and lighting setup. I turned on the decibel meter app to hear what the levels would be like. It was mostly below 87 dbA. Only once did it reach 89 Db for a few seconds. It was an enjoyable experience for the entire family without having to worry about loud music damaging our eardrums. There was plenty of ‘boom boom’ but it did not hurt our ears. In contrast, the megachurch we attended (chapel.org), refused to turn it down and said they would keep it at 92 dbA and I had many arguments with them over why they chose to assault our ears. If Toby Mac and Sears Center can be sensitive to hearing damage and keep sound levels down, why can’t the average church?
@Stuart Allsop If you read your earlier posts, you yourself have simply said db. I use the decibel meter app and it measures in dbA.
@Anil Philip, you say: “If you read your earlier posts, you yourself have simply said db.” Correct. I have used “dB” where it is appropriate to use it without a subscript, such as when talking about changes in level. And I have used “dBA” and “dBC” where that is appropriate, such a when talking about measuring sound pressure levels with a suitable meter.
“I use the decibel meter app and it measures in dbA.” There’s two problems with that: First, you are using the wrong scale for measuring the level of loud sounds with significant low frequency content, such as contemporary music. And second, a cell phone app is pretty useless for getting accurate readings of sound pressure levels anyway, simply because the mic on a cell phone is the wrong type. It is designed to be directional, capturing sounds in front of it (because that’s where your mouth is when you use the phone) and rejecting sounds coming from other directions (to make sure that background noise is eliminated, and only your voice is heard), whereas an acoustic measurement mic must be omni-directional, capturing sound from all directions equally, for obvious reasons.
There’s also the issue that the mic in a cell phone (and the associated circuitry) is designed specifically to pick up voice frequencies and reject frequencies outside the usual voice range. Also for obvious reasons. Some apps try to compensate for that by applying internal equalization filters, but even then it isn’t accurate, as there’s a wide variation in manufacturing tolerances. The mic in your phone very likely has rather different characteristics than the mic in the phone of the guy next to you : those mics just cost a few cents to make, and are not meant to be quality acoustic measurement mics.
So if you really are intent on getting reliable, accurate, valid sound level readings, I’d suggest that you buy a proper hand-held sound level meter. Get a decent quality one, made by a reputable manufacturer, not a cheap Chinese toy. A good meter like that will cost you around US$ 100 on Amazon, eBay, etc. They are not expensive.
Then after you get your meter, make sure you switch it to “C” weighting and “Slow” response, and get an acoustician or experienced sound engineer to teach you ho to use it properly: how to hold it when you take a reading, and how to take care of it, and how to re-calibrate it when the calibrations drifts after a few weeks.
You’re a knucklehead! Did they have an amplifier and bass guitar in Solomon’s Temple that I didn’t quite catch while reading the Bible? I told my wife today I’m not going back to our church of mostly older people because I have to preserve what little hearing I have left. I refuse to wear silicone ear plugs anymore. The pastor didn’t act on my complaint about volume. I’m not doing this anymore!