Originally Posted by bossobass
I've played bass guitar since I was 13 years old, at which age I was hired as a session bassist to record a CW single. By the age of 18, I played football stadium, one of which used the same sound folks who did Woodstock 3 years earlier. I worked on Cerwin Vega's Boogie Barge on the 3 rivers in Pittsburgh that was so loud it changed your heartbeat.
I've been into surround since ProLogic and upgraded to AC-3 when it came out and I'm not timid about playback levels. What I've found is that, generally speaking, movie soundtracks are far less a danger to hearing loss than modern music, which is so compressed that you get a constant high level of SPL.
Have a look at any of the peaks-to-average graphs done of movie soundtracks by Maxmercy in the Master List thread and you'll see a 30dB difference. Some modern discs have been compressed to a 2 or 3dB difference. No dynamics, all loud level.
Honestly, being a city boy most of my life, there is background noise 24/7/365, and it gets louder every year. The mild case of tinnitus I suffer in my old age is completely drowned out by city ambience. Just riding in a car with a window cracked at 70 mph on any highway in the US is worse than watching a movie at reference level. Chain saws, leaf blowers, commercial mowers, chipper/shredders, fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, subways, trains, planes and automobiles... it's a loud world we live in. Way louder and far longer exposure times than a movie.
It's unfortunately too dangerous to walk, drive or ride a bicycle with ear protection, but, if you're worried about 90 minutes of a soundtrack at reference levels, most of which only have a fraction of levels at the huge numbers that are always quoted here, and almost never at the 120+dB numbers claimed, then you should be doubly worried about everyday life in the big city.
Bottom line for me is that music discs are far, far more a danger to hearing than any movie because of the ridiculous compression schemes that lead to ever louder and louder mixes from a peak-to-average perspective.
There's no chance I'm watching a movie at -20dB, which puts the conversations below real life conversations and that's IF you're sitting at the primary listening position, directly on axis. Heck, a telephone dial tone is 80dB. A lawn mower at 3' is 107dB, which OSHA says you can endure without hearing loss for an hour a day. And like OSHA, all noise ordinances are 'A' weighted, which means the subwoofers (which provide the lion's share of the 115dB number) are irrelevant.
A 12 gauge shotgun blast is 165dB. That's 32,000 times louder than any HT system can reproduce accurately. The closer to reality, the better, IMO. I don't advocate ridiculous listening levels and I certainly have never been a fan of headphones (never owned a pair in my life), but movies haven't adversely affected my hearing at all and music, live and discs, most definitely have.