Some grad students at the University of Maine have conducted an informal survey of noise levels in four arcades in the vicinity of the university and have come to the conclusion that arcade noise may be detrimental to your hearing if exposed to a certain level of noise for a certain amount of time. So this is no big surprise, especially to those of us who have worked in arcades. Of course the damage that can be done depends greatly on the average volume levels of the arcade and those can change dramatically from one moment to the next due to factors of what games are being played, which aren’t, what the volume level is set to when a game is in attract mode and when it’s being played, how many people are in the arcade and how loud they are. Of the four arcades surveyed, two arcades had acceptable levels of noise but one of the four actually had levels that ranged between 93 db and 114 db which could cause hearing problems after about an hour.
Fortunately the article isn’t suggesting that arcades close but it does suggest that they might need to adjust the volume (which could be a problem for some as there’s a nostalgia that comes with the ambient noise of an arcade – and speaking of that if you want some pre-recorded arcade ambiance there is a website dedicated to such a thing which I’m sure the people who made this study wouldn’t appreciate me pointing out). Also of interest from the article is something that has nothing to do with hearing loss but of arcade attendance:
Arcades were chosen because of their high volume and young customers. The UMaine graduate researchers surveyed 95 local children ages 11-15 and found that 77 percent of them go to arcades an average of one hour a week.
77% regular attendance to an arcade is pretty good, especially since according to some media outlets “arcades are totally dead”.
But getting back to the subject for a brief moment, one thing I would love to see become more common on arcade machines (I have seen it before) are headphone jacks with a volume control so if players want to they can hook up to a game with their own headphones. I think that would be one thing that could help.
(Image above from Hearing Informed)