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' as it is often called) depends on how loud the noise that you are exposed to is, and how long you are exposed to it.
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. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reviewed the research on pub noise published since 1985, and found that most pubs expose workers to noise levels above 95 dB.
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 Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force for the music and entertainment industries (this includes pubs, restaurants and clubs where recorded music is played) in 2008, but many employers were slow to revise their policies and practices.
The Sound Advice website provides information and guidance on the control of noise at work in the entertainment industries, including pubs and clubs.
For more information, see our Working in Hospitality section.