Everyday sounds might be louder than you think. We’re surrounded by loud noises during many of our daily activities. Noisy workplaces, concerts, and leisure activities can all impact our ears. October is Protect Your Hearing Month, so this is a great time to think about how your environment could be causing hearing loss. Learn more about noise and protect your hearing before you have hearing loss.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Exposure to loud noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. We often don’t realize just how loud the sounds around us really are. And we don’t think about how these sounds can impact our ears.
Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to very loud noise. Any sound louder than 85 decibels (dB) has the potential to damage your hearing. These are some common sounds and their decibel level to put this into perspective:
- Whispering – 30 dB
- Normal conversation in a quiet room – 60 dB
- City traffic during rush hour – 80 to 85 dB
- Motorcycle – 95 dB
- Subway train screeching to a halt at the platform – 100 dB
- 100% volume on most smartphones or listening devices – 110 dB
- Concert or sports event – 110 to 115 dB
- Emergency sirens – 120 dB
- Firearms – 140 dB
Sounds under 85 dB don’t cause hearing loss. But looking at this list, you may be surprised just how many of your daily activities can cause hearing loss.
Loud Sounds Are More Harmful
Louder sounds cause hearing loss faster. For example, if you’re exposed to sounds around 85 to 90 dB, it will take several hours before you start to experience hearing loss. But when sounds are approximately 105 to 110 dB, even a few minutes can be harmful. And sounds louder than 120 to 130 dB can cause hearing loss in just a few seconds.
How Noise Causes Hearing Loss
When these loud sounds travel down your ear canal, they reverberate against the eardrum. Three tiny bones, called the ossicles, respond to the movement of the eardrum, and cause ripples in the fluid-filled middle ear. Here, tiny hair cells called cilia sense the movement, translating the movement into electrical signals about the sound wave’s volume and pitch. Your brain interprets these signals as sound.
When sounds are extremely loud, these delicate cells are damaged, and may even die. When this happens, you’ll experience hearing loss.
Protecting Your Hearing
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable! If you protect your ears from these dangerously loud noises, you won’t experience noise-induced hearing loss. Wearing earplugs or earmuffs reduces the volume, so your inner ear doesn’t experience the full force of the loud sounds.
Earplugs are perfect for reducing moderately loud sounds. Earplugs will reduce sounds by 10 to 20 dB. So if the sounds around you are roughly 100 – 110 dB, earplugs can reduce the volume of these sounds to safe levels.
If the sounds are much louder, then earmuffs are a better choice. Earmuffs create a full seal around your entire ear. They can reduce sounds by up to 30 dB, giving you better hearing protection from loud noise.
Other Tips to Protect Your Hearing
Hearing protection isn’t the only way to protect your hearing. Reducing noise is another way to prevent hearing loss. It’s easy to monitor noise exposure with a decibel reader app. Find a free decibel reader app, and use it to test the sound volume whenever you think it might be too loud. If you can turn down the volume, move further away from the source of the noise, or leave altogether, you can protect your hearing.
Schedule a Hearing Test with Us!
Do you want to learn more about hearing loss and hearing protection? Book a hearing test and find out more about your hearing needs. A hearing test can show you your hearing range and your hearing threshold at each pitch. This helps you identify any signs of hearing loss.
A hearing test is also the perfect time to find out more about loud noise, and how you can protect your hearing. Ask us how to properly fit earplugs and earmuffs to get the best protection. You may even want to consider custom earplugs molded to your ears. Visit us today for all this and more.