Yes. Loud music can do the same damage to your hearing as other loud noise, and noise levels in pubs and clubs are often very high. Musicians, DJs, bar staff and security staff are most at risk.
Whether noise will cause hearing damage – or noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as it is formally called – depends on how loud the noise that you are exposed to is, and for how long you are exposed to it.
The relevant law is found in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The regulations cover the music and entertainment industries (this includes pubs, restaurants and clubs where recorded music is played). You can find more information on the Health and Safety Executive Noise pages.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). Normal conversation is around 60 dB. Noise of less than 75 dB, even for long periods, is unlikely to damage your hearing. Remember the 'two metre rule' – if it is so noisy that you find it difficult to communicate with a colleague who is two metres away, the noise is loud enough to damage your hearing.
The Sound Advice website provides information and guidance on the control of noise at work in the entertainment industries, including pubs and clubs.
The Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) 5 Ways to Protect your Hearing advice also has information on how to protect your hearing, including guidance for people working in pubs and clubs.
Another good source of information and support is the website of the British Tinnitus Association.