Silent Disco Might Ease Social Fears but Can it Hurt Your Ears?

A crowd of people at the California State Fair busted a move and cut a rug with the look of sheer joy, but there was no music heard anywhere around. So why were these folks happy about dancing in silence? While it seemed like a music-free version of air guitar, a closer look revealed they were all wearing headphones.


The dancers were participating in a silent disco. It’s all the rage at local bars, weddings, and events. Party-goers are handed headphones programmed with three channels of music to listen to controlled by live disc jockeys.

“You can switch between the top 40’s, throwbacks, and hip-hop,” Robyn Bos with Quiet Events said as she handed out headphones to patrons at the Fair’s silent disco room. “I think it’s the coolest thing,” exclaimed Bos.

Sacramento resident Sylvia Anderson said the silent disco is a better alternative to loud blaring music for her family, especially for her son.

“He’ll go to school dances, but he complains that they’re too loud. It’s overwhelming sensory for him, so this is perfect,” Anderson said.

Marquez Bura of Southern California did a jig showing off his bright red tennis shoes that matched the spinning pastel-colored lights canvassing the silent disco room. He said he thinks the new fad could help those who struggle with social anxiety.

“You really don’t feel everyone’s eyes on you. It lets you zone,” Bura said with his headphones off so he could answer questions.

While it may seem anti-social, Bura said it’s easier for him to hold a conversation at a silent disco compared with a traditional loud music event. He said he’s able to hear people more clearly, but only if he removes the headphones.

Silent disco headphones are compatible with cochlear implants. For those concerned about preventing hearing loss, Quiet Event disc jockey Glenn Molina says participants have control over the headphones.

“You can always adjust the volume, you know. You don’t have to go max for all the headphones,” Molina said.

However, San Francisco State University audiologist Maria Raggio said listening to music via earphones instead of from a loudspeaker likely won’t prevent hearing loss.

“If individuals wearing earphones are able to turn up the volume to their preference level, then there is no control of the loudness of a sound, and at the same time, that sound is being sent directly into their ear canals rather than crossing the room from a speaker,” Raggio said. If the headphone level is significantly loud, Raggio says there’s a potential danger for noise-induced hearing loss.

Raggio suggests the volume control not exceed 60 percent on your headphones while tripping the light fantastic at a silent disco or just enjoying your favorite tunes.

If you wish to seek a professional for social anxiety or hearing loss, you can check to see if their license is valid by visiting the Board of Psychology at https://www.psychology.ca.gov/ or the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board at https://www.speechandhearing.ca.gov/.

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