On almost any given day most of us are exposed to noise at dangerous volume levels that are loud enough to potentially cause permanent long-term damage to our hearing. While those that do not live with hearing loss may not fully realize the negative impact it has on one’s quality of life, those that do, fully understand that their future well-being depends on taking the steps necessary to protect their hearing.
How loud is dangerous?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, many daily activities include varying degrees of exposure to sound levels that are surprisingly above the safe volume range. For example, a human snoring can reach levels up to 90 dB. Over a long period of time, sound at that level could potentially be damaging. Also, barking dogs can sometimes reach noise levels exceeding 80 dB. While most dogs do not maintain that level for long periods of time, people that spend lengthy times in places such as groomers or kennels could be at increased risk for damaging their hearing. There are many such examples in today's noisy world, therefore it is important to recognize when the risk is present, and then be prepared to protect your ears, when unexpected, harmful noise levels are encountered.
Safe sound levels:
- A whisper is 30 dB
- Normal conversation is 60 dB
- Classroom chatter is 70 dB
Anyone who’s spent a significant portion of their life in loud environments without hearing protection is most likely hearing impaired to some degree. Below are some of the most common noises responsible for noise induced hearing loss, or NIHL.
Dangerous sound levels:
- Driving in congested traffic exposes us to 85 dB and above
- Gas-powered lawnmowers come in around 90 dB
- Crowded, loud restaurants can reach 110 dB -nearly rock concert loud!
- Motorcycles, emergency vehicle sirens, and kennels full of barking dogs can reach a deafening 115 dB
- Gunfire and fireworks at close range is 140 dB and above
- Fan noise at sporting events - On September 29, 2014 the loudest crowd roar was recorded at a Kansas City Chiefs game, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The roar clocked in at 142.2dBA and was recorded with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter.
While spending time in noise levels of 75 dB and below is considered safe, exposure to the noise levels listed above is time sensitive. The risk of NIHL goes up with time exposed, here’s OSHA’s limits to safe exposure times:
- 8 hours in 90 dB
- 4 hours in 95 dB
- 15 minutes in 100 dB
- 1 minute at 110 dB
It’s sad, but for many of us, hearing loss is the lifelong cost for attending 110+ dB rock concerts, sporting events, car races, etc. All it takes is a lack of knowledge and preparation for one 140 dB noise exposure to have a negative impact on your future!
So learn the consequences of damaging your hearing and be prepared!
For those who are regularly involved in high noise activities, the use of noise cancelling head sets and electronic ear plugs is recommended. They are readily available and are an excellent investment in your future. Everyone should keep multiple sets of foam earplugs handy for unexpected situations with high noise levels. They are inexpensive, easy to obtain and could make a big difference when the need arises. Transportation, which we all depend on, is considered a major source of global noise pollution. So being equipped and ready to protect your ears when traveling is a smart choice. At this time, ear plugs are not required equipment for sporting events, concerts, and even some restaurants/clubs. However, an argument could be made that they should be, so why not be proactive and bring them with you as a precaution when participating in these activities.
Unfortunately, approximately 10% of the American population didn’t get the memo in time and have already suffered some noise induced damage to their hearing. Left untreated, hearing loss can be deceptive and take its toll on our personal relationships, long-term health, and lifetime income.
Technology to the rescue!
Today's noisy world is full of beautiful, loud and enjoyable experiences. And while the fear of damaging your hearing should not cause you to miss out on these wonderful moments, there should always be a sense of precaution present that helps you to protect yourself when required. If you or someone you know is experiencing the challenges of hearing loss, don’t wait any longer. The cost of digital hearing aids today are very affordable and they are able treat a wider range of hearing losses than ever before. It has never been easier to purchase a pair of high quality hearing aids suitable for your particular hearing loss and they can even be delivered to your door in just a few short days!