It’s a noisy, loud world out there. Everyday sounds that we often are oblivious to can actually be harmful to our hearing. Household appliances, background music at bars or restaurants, or blasting instrumentals at concerts, loud noises are all around us. Even on our commute to work, honking cars, screeching buses, or thunderous subway trains can impact our hearing.
According to the World Health Organization, 16% of global hearing loss is attributed to occupational noise exposure. As most of us work close to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, it is important to recognize how to protect our hearing while on the job. In order to minimize the risk of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), it is important we as individuals to understand how we can protect ourselves from damaging noises.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Countless studies have suggested that the safe exposure limit is 85dB (decibels) for 8 hours a day. Your hearing could be at risk of damage if you are continually exposed to higher volume sounds. You’d be surprised what sounds fall between 90dB (considered loud) to 140dB (hearing threshold).
The hairdryer you use after taking a shower is measured at 90dB. Your music device played a full volume falls at around 100dB. Your favorite band is in town, and you’ve experienced an out of this world experience for the last 3 hours. You’ve also exposed your ears to 110dB noise which is only 10dB less than the dangerous noise level of a plane taking off. Gunshots or fireworks could immediately cause hearing loss with just one single burst at 140dB.
Protecting Your Hearing in Different Environments
Managing the sound environment at home is a great starting point to protecting your hearing. Familiarizing yourself with the decibel levels of common everyday activities such a blow drying your hair, using a blender, or mowing your lawn, will allow you to know safe hearing conditions. If you’re engaging in do-it-yourself project that require usage of drills or hammers, be sure to use hearing protection as these noises are quite damaging to your ears. Be aware of the volume on your TV or car stereo as well.
If you find yourself going to a large-scale event, understand that these environments push the boundaries of safe listening levels. Such events include air shows, firework displays, concerts, or any sporting event. It might be useful to download a sound meter application on your smartphone if you are attending such events. Anything over 90dB for prolonged periods of time can be damaging. Be sure to bring earplugs and distance yourself from the loudspeakers.
Occupational noise exposure is a growing culprit in noise induced hearing loss according to the World Health Organization. Generally, the noise level where employers must provide hearing protection is an average exposure of 85dB. Safe exposure limits are calculated by exposure time and sound intensity. If your place of employment recommends hearing protection, wear it correctly and 100% of the time. Knowing your surroundings and the average levels of noise you are exposed to throughout your shift is also important. If your work does not provide hearing protection, either provide your own or talk to your employer about providing protection.
Listening to music safely on our phones or music devices can greatly decrease noise induced hearing loss. Setting your headphone volume level when you’re in a quiet environment as opposed to a noisy environment will help dangerous thresholds. Paying attention to how long you’ve listened to your music at high volume is also critical. Your ears may adapt to the higher volume over time, meaning this may damage your hearing even more. Understand that the higher the volume, the less time it takes noise to impact your hearing.
Hearing Protection and Ear Care
There are a wide variety of protective hearing devices that are available. The most basic form of hearing protection are non-custom ear plugs. These are usually made of memory foam and one of their advantage is that they are disposable and as such, more hygienic. Ear muffs or defenders are often used in the workplace. They are lined with sound deadening material which absorb sound waves by increased air resistance. Higher quality custom earplugs are probably most effective. These types of earplugs are designed to protect your hearing while delivering clearer sound across frequencies. They are customizable to protect your hearing depending on different environments. These often are fitted by an impression or mold of your ears.
Ear care and protecting your hearing is important. If you feel that you may be experiencing hearing loss, muffled hearing, buzzing in the ear, it is important to reach out to our team at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center. We will be able to conduct a hearing test to understand your precise condition and needs. We will be able to recommend you tips on hearing protection and devices that will improve your hearing situation!