We are exposed to various types of sound in our daily lives – from waking up to an alarm clock to listening to music or a podcast and using different appliances to cook in the kitchen. You may be surprised to learn that some of these noises can be hazardous to hearing health. Exposure to loud noise is a leading cause of hearing loss. Learn about these risks and ways you can protect your hearing health!
Impact of Noise on Hearing Health
Noise is a common cause of hearing loss. One-time or consistent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage the auditory system. Loud noise desensitizes the hair cells in the inner ear, making them increasingly vulnerable to dying. These hair cells play a critical role in how we hear as they convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals. These signals are then carried to the brain whey they are further processed. The brain assigns meaning to the sound we hear after receiving the auditory information from the inner ear, which allows us to understand what we hear.
Damaged hair cells prevent them from performing their essential function. This forces the brain, receiving less auditory input, to work harder in trying to process sound, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells, hair cells in the inner ear do not regenerate so when they experience damage, this is permanent. There are no medical interventions or ways to replenish these cells meaning that hearing loss is chronic.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Sound is measured in decibels. Experts suggest that people can absorb 85dB for 8 hours a day without harming their hearing health. This is the equivalent of busy city traffic, a restaurant during peak hours, and a hairdryer. Exceeding this safety threshold requires adjusting your exposure time significantly. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) recommends that exposure time to noise above 85dB be reduced by half for every increase of 3 decibels of sound. Their guidelines for safe listening include:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 30min
Surpassing these levels and durations can cause irreparable damage. It is important to think about the types of noises you are regularly exposed to and assess what the risk is to your hearing.
Everyday Noises that Could Cause Hearing Loss
Numerous daily noises can be hazardous to hearing health. This includes:
- Household appliances: several types of everyday household appliances produce noise near or above 85dB:
- power tools: drills, chainsaw, etc. – up to 110dB
- blenders, food processors, juicers – up to 100dB
- a lawnmower, leaf blower, vacuum cleaner, hairdryer: up to 90dB
- Social activities: another common daily exposure to loud noise is social activities and settings. This includes:
- noisy restaurant, bar, party: 85-90dB
- attending a game in an arena, going to a concert in a stadium: up to 110dB
- Electronic devices: streaming audio like music or podcasts from your electronic devices, via headphones or earbuds, can get up to 100dB at the highest volume setting.
Knowing the levels of noise you are exposed to can help you determine how long you can be safely exposed, if at all.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. There are several effective ways you can protect your hearing health from loud noise, preventing hearing loss. A few useful tips include:
- Wear hearing protection. There are various types of hearing protection like headphones, earbuds, and earmuffs. These offer a physical barrier that reduces the amount and impact of loud noise. They are also portable so you can easily access them when moving through spaces that are noisier or if you are about to use a noisy household appliance etc.
- Measure noise levels. You can download an app to measure the decibels in the environment you are in. This then allows you to adjust your exposure time accordingly.
- Reduce exposure. There are also other ways you can reduce loud noise exposure. This includes avoiding noisier places and opting for quieter settings, maintaining the volume settings on your electronic devices, and taking listening breaks throughout the day.
- Take a hearing test. It is important to incorporate hearing tests in your annual health check-ins. Having your hearing tested regularly helps you track your hearing health and any changes you may experience.
These safety measures can prevent the development of noise-induced hearing loss, protecting your hearing health. Contact us to learn more.