Loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss. Known as noise induced hearing loss, this can be caused by one time or repeated exposure to loud noise. Though you may be thinking that noise levels have to be extremely high to damage hearing, what is considered “loud” noise is surprising. We are exposed to hazardous sources of noise in our daily lives and there are everyday activities that can harm hearing. Being aware of this risk and practicing safety measures can prevent noise induced hearing loss.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that over 30 million people are regularly exposed to dangerous noise levels. This can cause noise induced hearing loss by damaging the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the inner ear that play a major role in how sound is processed. These cells convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that get sent to the brain. The brain then continues processing these cells which includes assigning meaning to them, allowing us to understand what we hear.
Loud noise can desensitize and weaken the sensory cells in the inner ear. This reduces their capacity to effectively and efficiently process sound waves which results in the brain receiving less auditory information. Unlike other types of cells we have, sensory cells in the cochlea do not regenerate. There are also no ways to repair any damage they experience which means its permanent, causing chronic noise induced hearing loss.
How loud is too loud?
You are likely wondering how loud sound has to be to affect hearing. Though it is obvious that noises like fireworks and sirens are potentially harmful for hearing, there are also everyday sounds that can be as well. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB can be hazardous for hearing health. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy city traffic, a hair dryer, or vacuum cleaner. According to experts, people can be exposed to 85dB for 8 hours a day without harming their hearing. But exposure to noise levels beyonce 85dB needs to be drastically reduced.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends reducing exposure time by half for every 3dB increase of noise levels over 85dB. Their guidelines for safe listening include:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 1 hour
- 97dB: 30min
Exceeding these safety thresholds can impact hearing health. It is important to take inventory of the noise level you are exposed to on a daily basis so that you can make the necessary adjustments to mitigate any harm.
Everyday activities that could harm hearing
There are various everyday activities that can impact hearing health. A few common examples include the following:
- Using household appliances. Several types of household appliances produce sound that is near or exceeds 85dB:
- hair dryer, blender: 80-90dB
- lawn mower, vacuum cleaner: 90dB
- power tools (hand drill): 100dB
- Work environments. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that 22 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace. Noisy work settings include restaurants, transportation hubs, construction sites, music venues and more.
- Social activities. Social life is another common way people are exposed to excessive noise. From attending concerts, to watching a sports game in a bar or stadium, and going to gun ranges or automobiling; these activities produce noise levels that can easily surpass 85dB.
- Electronic Devices: using headphones or earbuds to listen to music or podcasts is common. Depending on the type, volume settings on devices can reach up to 100dB.
Regularly engaging in these activities can take a toll on hearing health. This highlights the importance of protecting your hearing as much as possible.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
There are effective ways you can protect your hearing, preventing noise induced hearing loss. A few strategies you can integrate into everyday life include:
- Wear hearing protection: this includes headphones and earplugs which provide a physical barrier for the ears, reducing the amount of loud noise you absorb.
- Reduce exposure: you can do this by taking listening breaks throughout the day, maintaining low volume settings on electronic devices, avoiding noisy settings etc.
- Get your hearing tested: getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to track your hearing health and intervene early if you experience any changes.
Contact us today to learn more about preventing noise induced hearing loss and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!