After Flanders and Brussels, Wallonia is also preparing to adopt measures regulating amplified sound in concert halls, festivals and other venues to protect audiences from the risk of permanent hearing damage. “This risk has become a reality because of the change in listening habits (higher volumes) and the surrounding musical universe (more low frequencies),” Wallonia’s Environment Minister and founder of the Dour Festival, Carlo Di Antonio, stressed.
The protective measures, adopted on Thursday at first reading, are similar to those in effect since Wednesday in Brussels and since 2012 in Flanders.
The general rule stipulates that all establishments open to the public, including open-air or temporary events, may play amplified music without any particular conditions as long as they do not exceed 85 decibels (A). The operators running these events or establishments will now have to inform their public that they respect this limit.
Two exceptions will allow volumes of 95dB (A) and 100 dB (A), but they come with conditions related to informing and protecting the public, including installing hearing protection devices – like ear plugs – for the highest intensities. These apply to venues like dance cafés, cafés offering shows, concert rooms and discotheques.
In all cases, the average sound level must be less than 100 dB (A), the threshold beyond which there is a real risk of hearing loss, according to a press release from the Ministry.
The legislation, which will only be effective after the decree is adopted in the Walloon parliament, will apply to all activities open to the public and disseminating amplified music, whether in the open air or not, on the road or on private premises, and free of not. Examples include halls, cafés, bars, restaurants, festivals, snack bars, sport halls, stores, malls, cultural centres, concert halls and discotheques.
Residences, their annexes and gardens and, generally, all locations not accessible to the public, are considered private establishments, so the amplified-sound legislation does not apply to them.