Minneapolis has just made ear protection a basic right of its concert-going residents. Beginning Saturday, April 19, all bars and clubs that host live music are required to provide free earplugs rated to block 12 decibels. The ordinance was just passed by the Minneapolis City Council.
Plugs for this program will be offered free by a coalition of businesses -- Locally Grown, Globally Known, Miracle Ear, and 3M -- and are manufactured by 3M. Clubs are not required to use the 3M plugs, but must furnish some sort of free earplugs, according to the city.
About 185 venues -- those with Class A and Class B liquor licenses and have live music, DJs, or other entertainment -- are affected by these new guidelines. It is believed to be the first ordinance of its kind in the U.S.
"Overall it's a good idea," says Joe Hinz, a student in the Audiology program at the U of M and a sound engineer who has worked at 7th St. Entry. "I've done sound in the Entry for a couple years. I'd measure the sound levels in the Entry, and they'd typically exceed 100 decibels. When you exceed 85, you're at risk for damaging your hearing. When people enter a venue like that, they should be cautious about protecting their hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss doesn't show up right away. You may have normal thresholds for many years before it shows up." (More on permissible dB ranges here.)
According to Locally Grown, Globally Known's Brian Felsen, the most common plugs 3M will provide through the program are 3M™ E-A-Rsoft™ Yellow Neons™, and they'll come in a dispenser like the one pictured above.
These changes will cost First Avenue about $4,000 in lost profits from the approximately 10,000 pairs they sell each year, per the Star Tribune. This cuts out the 50 cents to $1 charged for these earplugs at their member clubs, says First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz.
"We're already selling higher-end earplugs that are reusable for $15, if people want to have something a little bit better," Kranz says. "Throughout this process, no one has reached out to us to find out how many earplugs we use on a yearly basis. Usually there's more input from the businesses that it would affect. Just in the last 7 days, we've had over 10,000 people through our doors."
Gimme Noise will keep our ears to the ground on this story and see how things look when the rules roll out on April 19.
Here's the language for the ordinance:
364.115. Hearing protection devices. All Class A and Class B on-sale liquor, wine and beer licensees shall have and make available, free of charge, hearing protection devices to all patrons and employees. Such single-use earplugs must have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of at least twelve (12) decibels. The requirement imposed by this section shall not apply unless the license official has identified a source or supplier of such hearing protection devices that is capable of providing sufficient devices free of charge to all such establishments. The license official may develop reasonable rules regarding required signage or notification to patrons regarding the devices and their availability.GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS