Secretary of State sweeps audience complaints off the table: loud music in bars and clubs cannot be turned down | Economy

advice ignoredThe cabinet will not force festival organizers and pub and nightclub operators to turn back the volume knob. Last year, the Board of Health advised halving the maximum noise level in places with amplified music, such as in neighboring countries, but the cabinet fears this will lead to ‘unfeasible situations’.

Sebastian Quekel

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Legislation is expensive and enforcement of loud noise is difficult to implement, warns State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (Public Health) in conversation with this website. “We can better protect people in the short term with voluntary agreements and good information.” In doing so, the cabinet is ignoring the advice of the Board of Health.

What is happening?

There is no law in the Netherlands about how loud music can be. However, it has been agreed with music venues and festivals that music must not exceed 103 decibels for more than fifteen minutes. Without earplugs, it can damage your hearing in less than five minutes. The Chamber of Deputies considers this irresponsible and defends the legal maximum of 100 decibels in entertainment venues. A difference of 3 decibels seems small, but in the music world it means half the sound.

Doctors warned last year in a series of reports in this newspaper for an increase in hearing damage in young people. This sparked a nationwide riot. In recent months, Van Ooijen has been discussing this with proponents and opponents alike. The minister wants to take several measures to reduce hearing damage, but he thinks it goes too far to force food managers to do something about the noise, he writes in a letter to the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday.


It’s good that there isn’t a legal standard for music that’s too loud.

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This has to do with several things, says Van Ooijen. For example, most cafes and many music venues require ‘considerable investment’ to allow for a maximum noise level of 100 decibels. It is not clear which investments he is referring to. Furthermore, many festivals and concert halls would barely exceed 100 decibels, according to Van Ooijen from noise measurements.

Moreover, a reduction in the noise level makes little sense, because the applause and applause of the audience “often already exceeds 100 decibels.” Furthermore, seeking stricter rules could have the effect of stifling and stagnating the enthusiasm within the ‘do good things now’ pact, fears Van Ooijen.

Awakenings X Maceo Plex at Ziggo Dome at Amsterdam Dance Event
Awakenings X Maceo Plex at Ziggo Dome at Amsterdam Dance Event © ANP / ANP

This agreement, in which the government and event promoters fight together against hearing damage, will be expanded with more partners in the next period. Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) has been the main absentee for years. They don’t want any further regulation and have therefore deliberately remained outside the alliance. At Van Ooijen’s insistence, the industry will now “investigate how it can connect,” but a full commitment has yet to be made. If that happened, it would be an important step, says Van Ooijen, because ‘young people tend to go to a cafe or club more often than to a concert or festival’.

The government ignores the personal suffering, social costs and health costs that hearing damage entails

Wil Verschoor, patient organization Hoormij

losing group

This half-compromise by the KHN and other ‘seriously disappointing measures’ make little impression on Wil Verschoor of patient organization Hoormij. “Festival goers and buffet visitors are the losers here,” she says. “The government ignores the personal suffering, social costs and health costs that hearing damage entails.” Henri Marres, president of the national association of otolaryngology, is disappointed that the Board of Health’s advice does not lead to a concrete adjustment to 100 decibels.

What will the cabinet do? Stimulate the sale of earplugs in catering establishments, extend the agreement with various partners, detect hearing damage in children in a more structural way and have the quality of the headphones tested by the NVWA. “We are delighted with the direction and specific recommendations outlined by the Secretary of State that do justice to the breadth and complexity of the problem and solutions,” said Saskia Kloet of the SecurityNL knowledge centre. “Of course we are in favor of muting the sound whenever possible. At the same time, we also know that the desired 100 decibels are not safe for your ears and protection is still desirable.”

The Dutch Association of Hearing Care Companies (NVAB) is also pleased with the ‘urgency’ the cabinet now feels, but warns that the policy should not be ‘too evasive’.

The text continues below this video in which SafetyNL advises how to prevent hearing damage:

Ear plugs in catering

You can prevent hearing damage by wearing good ear plugs, experts say. Speech therapists and suppliers saw the sale of hearing protectors ‘explode’ after reporting in this newspaper. However, the sale of earplugs in the hospitality industry is not permitted due to the retail ban that clubs must adhere to. Van Ooijen now says he wants to change the law so visitors can protect their ears at dance parties.

In Holland, music is generally louder than in other countries. Research by consultancy Berenschot shows that Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden use a noise level of 100 decibels on average during an hour. In practice, this corresponds to an average of 102 decibels in a quarter of an hour. “This means a de facto deviation of 1 decibel from the maximum of the agreement”, says Van Ooijen. England currently stands out with a maximum of 107 decibels.

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