The world is a noisy place. Everyday sounds that we often are oblivious to can damage our hearing. From household appliances to background music at restaurants or shops, loud noises are all around us. On our commute to work, we may hear cars honking, buses screeching their brakes, or the thunderous sounds of the subway train. Going out on the weekend to a loud concert or club with friends may slowly rob you of your hearing ability.
According to audiologist Natalie Gibbs, exposure to noise is the second leading cause behind hearing loss. Depending on the volume and the time exposed to it, hearing loss could be temporary, but also permanent. Knowing and understanding the noises that could affect our hearing on a daily basis is a step in mitigating hearing loss.
How You May Be Affected by Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by a one-time intense burst of noise, like a gunshot or explosion. Exposure to these extremely loud sounds cause immediate damage to the fragile structures in the inner ear which may lead to permanent hearing loss. NIHL is more common though by being exposed to dangerous sound levels over time; being surrounded by the daily loud noises that we may not even notice.
According to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss. It is important to remember that noise-induced hearing loss is something can impact anyone. What is appalling about this though, is that NIHL is quite preventable through the use of hearing protection.
How Loud is Too Loud? How Long is Too Long?
At what level is hearing damaged? Audiologist Natalie Gibbs says that 85 decibels (dB) is the terrible number. Decibels are used to measure the volume of sounds, which help us identify if sounds are within safe volumes or if they may damage our hearing. Once sounds reach 85dB or above, there is a potential that the noise could cause permanent damage to your hearing. The longer the exposure for sounds above this level, the more damage occurs.
You would be surprised what every day noises are listed at 85dB. Vacuum cleaners you use at home may reach this decibel level. Lawn mowers are rated around 90dB. Other everyday noises that fall into the 85-100dB range include: hair dryers, food processors, trucks or motorcycles, power tools, and yard and garden tools. Continuous exposure to these noises over 85 decibels could be damaging to our hearing ability.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, there are mandates for occupational noise exposure. With hearing protection, one can work under constant levels at 85dB for up to 8 hours. By 90dB, it is half, and at 94dB, it’s only one hour. Anything above 120dB could be enough to cause permanent hearing loss, even if only exposed once.
If you are exposed to these noises frequently, you could be at risk of permanent hearing loss. It is best to use hearing protection if you know you will be encountering any of these items.
How to Protect Yourself From Hearing Loss
First and foremost, think about the type of sounds you are exposed to in your everyday life. Are these sounds louder than 85dB? How frequent to you hear these noises at those levels? If you frequently hear sounds above this level on a daily basis, then you need to take the necessary steps to protecting your hearing.
The first steps you can take are being cognizant of the sounds your intake around you. Turning down the volume while listening to music or watching a movie helps. If you are on your way to work and encounter much noise pollution from the commute, be sure to wear hearing protection. If you’re attending a concert or sporting event, make sure to always bring earplugs. Try to avoid sitting near loud sounds if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe.
Visit Us at Hearing Consultants
If you feel that you may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, schedule an appointment to talk to us at Hearing Consultants about your hearing loss. On average, people take seven years to start their hearing loss treatment, time in which they could be learning about how to prevent further hearing loss.
Come visit us at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test. We’ll be able to determine your level of hearing loss, provide important tips to protect your hearing, and work with you in finding solutions and treatment that meet your specific needs!