“Ear-shattering” noise cuts family cinema visit short


AN investigation has been launched after a family was driven from a cinema by sound levels that reduced a young girl to tears.

Emma Foster, three, had to be rushed out of the showing Ice Age 4 within minutes, tears streaming down her face and with her fingers in her ears.

The tot from Edinburgh needed painkillers and her father said his ears were ringing for hours afterwards.

Emma and Lucy Foster, 3 and 5, with parents Andrew and Gillian after their cinema ordeal.

Now environmental health chiefs are to investigate whether sound levels at a Vue cinema in the city broke the rules.

Inspectors armed with sound meters will measure peak sound levels at the cinema to see if the audience’s hearing is being put at risk.

Concern about cinema noise levels has been mounting after sound systems hit 95 decibels at some UK screenings, almost as loud as a pneumatic drill.

Andrew and Gillian Foster took Emma and her five-year-old sister, Lucy, to the screening in Ocean Terminal, Leith, on Sunday afternoon.

Andrew, 41, said: “We were there just having a good time and then the trailers started and bang! This wall of noise hit us. It was deafening.

“Lucy had her fingers in her ears. Emma was getting distressed and she was crying.

“A few minutes after the film started Emma was asking her mum to take her out. My wife came back in and said I would have to take her home because it was just too loud for her.

“She was saying her ears ached and that she wanted Calpol. My own ears were ringing about 12 hours later.”

Mr Foster complained to the cinema manager and only received a half-refund for the family ticket that they paid for.

He was told by the cinema manager that the trailers are always louder than the movie and that the Fosters were the first people to complain about the sound levels.

Mr Foster added: “As an adult I know what to expect, but I’m finding it louder in cinemas than it used to be. It seems every cinema now has got to be louder and bigger and better than its rivals.”


The British Standards Institution has said that the “ear shattering” noise levels experienced in the cinema are enough to cause real lasting damage to hearing.

According to the BSI average sound levels recorded during commercials and trailers are much higher than those in the feature presentation in order to make their products stand out.

Film trailers are advised to be broadcast at no more than 85 decibels, but movies like Saving Private Ryan, Armageddon and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace reached a deafening high of  95 dB.

That is louder than a motorbike and not far off the 110dB created by a pneumatic drill.

However, Swedish cinema design engineer Torkell Saetervade is one of those who refutes the warnings.

He said: “Cinemas do not damage your ears. You need eight hours of 85dBC a day for 40 years to give you 10-15% hearing loss.

“Young audiences like the cinema to recreate reality. If they think it’s too quiet, they just feel there’s something missing, shrug their shoulders and don’t come back”.

A Vue spokeswoman said that the noise levels were monitored to a safe level and that the aim of the Vue is to provide the “best possible experience”.

She said: “We will go on to check these levels before the screening the film to the public.

“Our aim is to ensure the best possible cinema experience . Where necessary we adjust the volume levels depending on the type of film and the audience watching it.

“This is especially the case for films which appeal to children or a mature cinema going demographic.”

A council spokesman said: “We have received a complaint which we will look into.”

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  1. What a lot of nonsense. People go to the cinema expecting to have their socks blown off by surround sound technology. Otherwise, what is the point? Maybe they should have waited for the DVD if their precious child was so sensitive to noise. Parents using their children to get some attention – that is the real scandal here.

  2. Pathetic….. I mean…. really… come on…. down right pathetic!!!!!! Did everyone leave or was it just this pathetic excuse of a family?

  3. The problem with those who don’t appreciate that cinema sound can be a problem is that they probably already have hearing loss and don’t know it. I visited a local cinema and enjoyed the latest Star Trek movie but I had to sit through almost the entire screening with my fingers in my ears after the sound at one stage inflicted pain in my right ear. This is a very real problem. There are safe levels that are likely being exceeded.

  4. Just had to leave Star Trek into darkness as my wife was in tears with the unremitting loud volume. Even the incidental poignant music was loud. well, we are old fogies (early 60s). I enjoyed the film but the volume added NOTHING for me.

  5. I just left the 8.30pm screening of man of steel, screen 9 in staines vue cinema and the sound levels were far too high. It was totally uncomfortable to watch and i didnt enjoy the film as a result. In addition, they managed to show the same advert twice for a film making the whole experience generally unenjoyable. I am really disppointed. I play in a band and that sound was louder than one of our band rehearsals. To the commenter above – sudden loud noises can damage your ears – mine are still ringing

  6. It’s very widely accepted in the scientific community that a level of 80 db for one day can cause permanent damage to hearing. If a person were subjected to loud noise daily the level of noise of 90 db could cause permanent damage within minutes. Childrens ears are more vulnerable to damage than are adults.

  7. Franny: there is no limit for how long you can be at 80db. That’s why hearing protection is only mandatory beyond 85db. “widely accepted in the scientific community” doesn’t convince me.

    Boaby: The limit for a chance at permanent damage at 100db is 8 minutes. Believing you are superhuman and none of this applies to you won’t protect you from hearing loss.

  8. The same people that think the movies are NOT too loud are the same miscreants that think you shouldn’t complain about second hand smoke.

    The movies are TOO loud for people with normal hearing. The rest of you are already deaf and dumb.

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