Update: Citing her pregnancy, representatives for Beyoncé told the Associated Press on Thursday that she is pulling out of the 2017 Coachella festival, but will perform there in 2018.
The Beyhive is all abuzz with the news that its queen, the pop icon Beyoncé, is expecting twins.
Her pregnancy was on full display at the Grammy Awards, and she should be fairly close to her (still undisclosed) due date when headlining the Coachella music festival in California in April.
But should fans – and Beyoncé – worry about the impact of all that loud music on the unborn twins?
The evidence is inconclusive, but audiologists say that in order to avoid damaging the twins' sense of hearing, the singer would be wise to exercise caution.
The science on this is a bit tricky. Researchers cannot perform a controlled laboratory study, because it would be unethical to expose pregnant women to anything that might damage a fetus. There are, however, a few observational studies of pregnant women who work in noisy environments.
And – from the not-for-the-squeamish department – scientists have measured fetal sound exposure by inserting microphones into the uterus of obliging volunteers.
The bottom line: One concert should be OK, but chronic exposure might be an issue, said Lindsay Bondurant, a pediatric audiologist at Salus University in Elkins Park.
"For somebody like Beyoncé who's doing this all the time, there might be more of a concern then, or for somebody who works in a factory or with airplanes or something like that," she said.
The singer has scaled way back on performing. Beyoncé's Feb. 12 turn at the Grammys was apparently her only recent performance since her last tour date in October. She is not on stage again until Coachella, on April 15 and 22, though the rehearsals might be loud.
Among the largest recent studies of prenatal noise exposure was an analysis of more than 1.4 million births in Sweden, published in 2016 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Among women in a workplace with sound levels above 85 decibels, children exposed in utero were slightly more likely to suffer impaired hearing than children born to mothers whose workplaces measured below 75 decibels. Some other studies have not found noise to be a problem.
Rock concerts can hit 120 decibels, said Bondurant, director of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute at Salus.
But the exposure would be different for the fetus, given that the sound travels through the mother's abdomen, said Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The timing of the exposure may matter, as well, depending on the developmental stage of the auditory pathway, she said.
By inserting a microphone into the uterus, researchers have found that sound levels are at least 20 decibels lower for the fetus, with the maternal insulation providing even greater protection for higher-frequency noises, Bondurant said.
Once, a pregnant friend of hers took an unusual step to protect against concert noise, the audiologist recalled.
"She put everybody's jackets on top of her belly," Bondurant said.
Did that help? Hard to say.
Noise is not the only challenge facing Beyoncé — and everyone else — at Coachella.