Noise is part of everyday life but did you know that there are everyday sounds we are exposed to that can cause hearing loss? Loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, the third more pervasive health issue that people live with today. Nearly 1 in 6 people have some degree of impaired hearing, a medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound.
There are a few factors that can cause hearing loss including loud noise. There are various activities we engage in on a daily basis that could be hazardous for your sense of hearing. Knowing what these are and implementing safety measures can protect your hearing health.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Being exposed to loud noise, one time or on a consistent basis, can contribute to the development of noise induced hearing loss. Loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which play a major role in how we absorb and process sound. These sensory cells send the brain auditory information which allows the brain to further process sound. The brain then assigns meaning to this sound which is what allows us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can desensitize these hair cells, making them increasingly vulnerable to dying.
This type of damage prevents these cells from carrying out their essential function. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, producing hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells we have (skin cells for example), hair cells in the inner ear do not regenerate. There are also no medications or medical treatments that can replenish these cells. This means that any damage they experience is permanent, causing chronic hearing loss. But noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable which is why implementing safety measures is so important.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Understanding how volume ranges and the noise levels that are dangerous can help you navigate sound safely. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and noise that exceeds 85dB can be harmful for hearing health. The sound(s) of busy city traffic, a noisy restaurant, and hair dryer measures close to 85dB. According to hearing health experts, people can be exposed to 85dB of sound for 8 hours a day without harming hearing health. But exceeding 85dB, exposure should be significantly adjusted.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guidelines recommend that for every 3 decibel increase of noise above 85dB, exposure time should be reduced by half. Their guidelines include:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 1 hour
- 97dB: 30min
Surpassing these thresholds can permanently damage hearing. We are exposed to levels of noise that are near or surpass 85dB daily. It is important to be aware of everyday sources of loud noise so that you can practice ways to mitigate the risk it can have on your hearing health.
Everyday Noises That Could Cause Hearing Loss
There are various noises you likely absorb in your everyday life that reach levels which can be potentially dangerous for hearing health. Common examples include the following:
- Household appliances: various types of household appliances generate noise near or above 85dB. This includes:
- power tools: drills, chainsaw etc. – up to 110dB
- blenders, food processors, juicers – up to 100dB
- lawn mower, leaf blower, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer: up to 90dB
- Social activities: if you have an active social like and enjoy social activities, you likely are exposed to noisy settings including:
- noisy restaurant, bar, party: 85-90dB
- attending a game in an arena, going to a concert in a stadium: up to 110dB
- Electronic devices: using headphones or earbuds and streaming audio like music or podcasts from your electronic devices is another common source of loud noise exposure This noise can get up to 100dB at the highest volume setting. Audio played on the highest volume setting on an iPhone for example can reach 102dB.
It is important to practice ways to protect your hearing health which can prevent the development of noise induced hearing loss.
Tips to Protect Your Hearing Health
There are numerous ways you can protect your hearing from loud noise exposure. This includes wearing hearing protection (headphones, earbuds), maintaining lower volume settings, taking listening breaks, and having your hearing assessed regularly. Contact us today to learn more about hearing protection and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.