Safe listening experience transcript

I’m Adam Hill, Associate Professor of Electroacoustics at the University of Derby. I’ve been at the University for 10 years, and I’ve worked as a sound engineer for large-scale events in the US for 20 years.

Sound engineers have an important duty of care to audience members at live events, to ensure they have an excellent, exciting and safe listening experience. But all over the world, sound exposure and noise pollution regulations for live events are often unfit for purpose.

The research I’ve pursued, in partnership with the Audio Engineering Society and the World Health Organisation, aims to identify current best practice as well as what knowledge is needed to make all live events safe, sustainable and highly enjoyable.

Part of my research involved creating a working group of 15 preeminent experts, through my role as chair of the Audio Engineering Society’s Technical Committee on Acoustics and Sound Reinforcement. This led to an invitation to join the WHO’s Make Listening Safe initiative in 2019.

Our work has been applied globally, including the creation of industry guidance. The Audio Engineering Society used our research to create reference for industry professionals on sound exposure and noise pollution, highlighting best practice and identifying knowledge gaps that need further research. The WHO created a Global Standard on Safe Listening Venues and Events, which aims to influence all new and revised sound exposure regulations around the world.

Eventually, guidance like this will lead to safer listening environments in live music venues and events and decrease the prevalence of hearing loss in the population.

The Audio Engineering Society’s guidance document identifies 25 core research questions that must be answered, and we’re already beginning work on several of these challenges. The University is also involved in the development of an industry-focused education programme to ensure sound engineers have the knowledge and skills to deliver excellent, but safe sound to all audiences.