Loud noises lead to hearing loss. At times, the loss occurs over a period of years, and the individual doesn’t notice until significant damage has occurred. At other times, a single event leads to a loss of hearing, such as when a loud noise occurs right next to the person’s ear. Fortunately, people can protect their hearing in most cases. Doing so, however, requires the individual to know how noise brings about this loss and how hearing loss might occur.
Noise and Hearing Loss
Individuals might lose their hearing from one loud sound in proximity to the ear. For instance, when a person sets off firecrackers, they need to wear ear protection to prevent a loss of hearing. On the other hand, hearing loss might occur more gradually because of repeated exposure to loud sounds. For example, a person who operates a jackhammer daily as part of their work duties could experience hearing loss if they don’t protect their ears. Louder sounds lead to more rapid hearing loss. The longer a person remains exposed to loud sounds, the more at risk they are of losing all or part of their hearing. This happens more rapidly if the person doesn’t use hearing protection or when their ears don’t receive enough time between the exposures to rest. For more information about hearing protection options, visit earpeace.com.
Sources of Loud Noise
Loud noise comes from a variety of sources. Some sources damage the ears because of everyday activities. Other sources lead to damage to a person’s hearing after a single event. Everyday activities that might lead to hearing loss include music from personal listening devices or smartphones. The risk of hearing loss increases when the person listens to this music and the volume stays at or close to the maximum level. Children’s toys might be loud enough to cause hearing damage, and the same holds true for fitness classes.
Men and women attending a concert might find they damage their hearing because of the loud noises commonly found at these events. Sporting events stand as another source of loud noises that can lead to hearing loss, and the same holds true for motorized sporting events, like a NASCAR race. A visit to a movie theater could likewise lead to a loss of hearing when the theater turns the sound up enough.
People must know the decibel level of items they use regularly. This includes firearms, firecrackers, and sirens. However, power tools along with gas-powered lawn tools run at a level that could damage the hearing, yet many users aren’t aware of this.
Decibel Levels of Common Sounds
People measure sound in terms of decibels (dB). The sound level associated with a whisper is 30 dB while normal breathing comes with a decibel level of 10 dB. When two people engage in a conversation, the average sound level runs 60 dB. Any noise over 70 dB that a person remains exposed to for a period could lead to hearing damage, while loud noises at 120 dB or higher could cause immediate damage to the ears.
The average noise sound level of a washing machine comes in at 70 dB, while a person sitting in city traffic inside their car will experience an average sound level of 80 to 85 dB. Gas-powered lawn tools also have an average sound level of 80-85 dB, and a person might find they damage their hearing after only two hours of exposure to these tools. Personal listening devices come with an average sound level of 105-110 dB, and this level damages the hearing in as little as five minutes. Finally, a person standing next to a siren or near a firecracker when it goes off becomes exposed to a sound level of 120 to 150 dB which can lead to immediate pain and injury to the ear.
The Sound Intensity
Men and women must understand the noise level that registers in their ears might not represent the actual intensity of the sound. Sound intensity represents the amount of sound energy present in a confined area, and scientists measure this intensity in decibels. As the decibel scale is logarithmic, the loudness and sound intensity aren’t directly proportional. The sound intensity grows rapidly, and two sounds with equal intensity might not sound equally loud. Why is this the case?
Loudness serves as a measure of how a person perceives audible sounds. Imagine sitting in a quiet room. It’s easy to hear the sound a pen makes when it rolls off the table and hits the floor. However, this same pen can roll off of a table in a busy restaurant and nobody would notice. The sound intensity didn’t change, and the risk of hearing damage isn’t impacted by the loudness of this sound. The risk of hearing damage increases as the sound intensity increases.
How can a person judge the sound intensity in various situations? A simple way to do this would be to stand arm’s length away from another person. If you cannot carry on a conversation in your normal speaking voices, the noise level could damage the hearing, as the odds of it being above 85 dB in sound intensity are great.
For more information on sound levels and what experts consider safe, men and women have access to a variety of tools today. Sound level meters allow you to measure noise in the immediate area, and a person can download one of these apps on smartphones today. In addition, certain apps now allow the user to predict their maximum allowable daily noise dose. NIOSH offers various publications on noise levels a person might wish to reference. This includes the NIOSH Sound Meter and the NIOSH Power Tools Database. Furthermore, a person might wish to review the Sight and Hearing Association Noisy Toys list to ensure their child’s hearing isn’t being damaged, or the Noise Navigator Sound Level Database.
The World Health Organization and Environmental Protection Agency have issued guidelines regarding environmental noises. The agencies recommend noise levels remain below 70 dBA over 24 hours or 75 dBA over eight hours. Doing so helps to prevent the loss of hearing because of noise. Keep this in mind and work to keep the noise level in your immediate area below this level to protect your hearing now and in the future.