Connecticut Entertains Volume Limit in Theaters
Going to the movies in Connecticut could soon become a quieter affair. In a supposed effort to protect the health of both workers and moviegoers, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would limit movie theaters from showing films at a level that would exceed 85 decibels.
An active dishwasher comes in at about the 80-decibel level, and Stamford Connecticut resident William Young, the main proponent of the bill, claims that his own tests measure extended intervals of 110 decibels during movie previews. Decrying this sonic assault, Young asks: “Who wants to sit there in pain?”
Unfortunately for Young, however, the opposition to these restrictions has been deafening. Some hearing loss experts like Dr. Robert Dobie have challenged Young’s characterization of the movie volume issue as a public safety concern. Dr. Dobiepoints out that the current 85-decibel workplace limit is designed for jobs like construction where employees experience prolonged exposure, and that in a movie theater: “The exposure is so brief and intermittent that no one with any expertise would ever say that they have any real risk of hazard or harm”
Also, to the surprise of nobody, the MPAA has voiced its vehement objections to these decibel limits by citing everything from First Amendment violations to discrimination, as no other public entertainment industry has volume constraints.
There is some precedent for regulating the loudness of what Americans hear through their TV, with an entire system for reporting commercials that are louder than the shows they inhabit. But with juggernauts like the MPAA crying foul so resoundingly and no experts yet coming to their defense, supporters of Young’s bill may just have to invest in some earplugs.