Sounds can enrich our lives and fill us with joy and relaxation. However when sounds become too loud they can quickly transfer from relaxing sounds, to noise pollution. This can happen at work or for leisure and it can help you to know when these sounds have reached the threshold into the danger zone. Understanding when and how your hearing can be put at risk can help you protect your ears and avoid permanent hearing damage due to noise.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
While the most common cause of hearing loss is attributed to age, noise induced hearing loss affects people of all ages and is becoming more and more common. This is in part because the amount of noise in our world is constantly increasing. We hear with our ears but process these sounds with our brains. When sounds exceed a safe listening level tiny hairs in our inner ear, which pick up sound information and send it to our brain can be permanently damaged or destroyed.
Sound is measured in decibels and any sound that exceeds 85 decibels over eight hours can begin to permanently damage our hearing. It is the level and the length of exposure that contribute to the decay of hearing. 85 decibels for eight hours daily, like in many workplaces, can significantly damage hearing over a decade while higher decibel levels such as the noise of an airplane taking off, fireworks overhead, or the sound of a gunshot, can do the same amount of damage in just seconds.
Work Activities and Hearing Loss
Most of us spend a large portion of our lives in the workplace. It is common for there to be a lot of noise at work, but some professions are a higher risk. Manufacturing jobs like factories, carpentry or construction jobs are notorious for being very loud. Other less obvious jobs that can put our hearing in danger are those who work in entertainment venues like nightclubs and concert halls.
Even some noisy office settings can easily have decibel levels, which rise above 85 decibels when everyone is speaking over each other all day. This is why OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set standards for employers of providing hearing protection at no cost to all workers who are exposed to 85 decibels or more for eight or more hours a day.
Leisure Activities and Hearing Loss
Many people may be vigilant about protecting hearing at work and start to slip when it comes to leisure activities. For instance many forgo hearing protection at a concert or noisy club or sporting event. If you are a professional carpenter or construction worker, you probably always wear hearing protection at work, but if you are working on a home project many power tools can reach dangerous decibel levels, which still require hearing protection. Even weekly chores like using the lawnmower or weed whacker on your home lawn can damage your hearing if you aren’t careful. Know the decibel level of the activities and hobbies you love so you can protect your hearing health for years to come.
The Rising Threat of Earbuds
Most of us listen to headphones or earbuds during work, relaxation, exercise and for phone calls without realizing the danger they pose to our ears. However, earbuds can send decibel levels higher than 100 decibels straight to our inner ear for hours at a time. Now due to unlimited streaming via the Internet, the amount of audio information we can receive is endless. It is up to us to put our own limits on our listening in order to protect our ears. A good rule of thumb is to limit the volume of headphones and earbuds to no higher than 60% of its potential volume and make sure to give yourself listening breaks for 15 minutes each hour or two.
Protect Your Hearing
Know the decibel level of the places you frequent. If you suspect your hearing may be in danger, make sure to wear earplugs or hearing protective headphones. Most hearing protection can limit the decibel level anywhere from 10-30 decibels which can make all the difference.
If you suspect that you are dealing with a hearing loss, we’re here to help. A hearing test can identify a hearing loss and help you find the best treatment for you. Make an appointment for a hearing test with us to stay on top of your hearing health and remember: hearing health begins with you!