Monitoring Your Daily Exposure to Noise

Monitoring Your Daily Exposure to Noise

The world is full of sounds and with healthy hearing we can navigate a range of sounds throughout the day. However, when sounds reach past a safe listening volume, they can damage our hearing permanently. You may not think of hearing loss as a big deal, but when you think about it, you may use it in more instances than you may first suspect.

We use our hearing to listen and respond and when this becomes depleted due to noise exposure it can lead to rifts in communication, a decrease in intimacy, impacts on cognitive functioning, chronic depression, social isolation, and even an increased risk of falling. When you understand the risks of hearing loss, you may be more inclined to be aware of your everyday noise exposure. 

Understanding How Loud Sounds Affect Our Hearing

Our ears process sound through vibrations. As the sound waves or vibration travels into our ear it passes through the eardrum and tiny bones called ossicles which amplify the sound before it reaches a tiny snail shaped organ called the cochlea which is filled with fluid. As the sound vibrations enter the cochlea, they cause ripples in the fluid which triggers tiny hairlike cells called stereocilia. Stereocilia transform sound vibration into electrical impulses which can be read by the brain. When sounds surpass a safe listening threshold, they can cause vibrations severe enough to shatter the tiny hairlike cells against the cell membrane which houses them, causing permanent noise induced hearing loss.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The volume or pressure of sound is measured in decibels (dBA). While we can listen indefinitely without sustaining hearing damage, above a safe listening threshold it can cause noise induced hearing loss which will stick with you for life. It is important to understand that it is not only the volume of sound, but the length of exposure which informs when you are in the danger zone for hearing damage. Any sound above 85 dBA for eight hours or more can cause permanent hearing damage, making the traditional work shift a perfect storm for hearing loss over years. However, as the decibels rise the time shrinks quickly. For every increase of three decibels the exposure time is cut in half. For instance, at 88 dBA, it only takes four hours for damage to occur and at 81 decibels it only takes two! By the time sounds reach 95 dBA, damage can occur in an hour!

Surprising Sources of Noise

You may be surprised by some of the sounds in your everyday life which may be contributing to lifelong hearing damage. Many times, the sounds are so persistent in our life that we don’t even realize that they are an issue. This is especially true of people who work in loud environments or enjoy loud hobbies. To better understand the levels and sources of dangerous decibels in your everyday life here is a chart:

–          0dB: silence

–          30dB: whispering

–          60dB: normal conversation

–          80dB: city traffic, vacuum cleaner

–          100dB: power equipment (hand drill, lawnmower)

–          120: airplane takeoff

–          130dB: concert

What are the Risks in Your Life?

You may think you live a fairly quiet life, or because you don’t work in noisy environments that you are in the clear. However, many times, the risk to our hearing comes in unexpected ways. For instance, the Hearing Health Foundation reports that 

50% of people ages 12-35 could be exposed to unsafe noise from personal listening devices. Meanwhile 40% of people ages 12-35 could be exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues.

Protect Your Hearing Health

One way that you can reduce the risk of hearing loss in your life is by being proactive. Invest in protective gear. Foam ear plugs are a great affordable option but for those who are exposed to noise regularly they may find that custom fit or noise canceling hearing protection will add needed security. In addition, it is important to know when you are being exposed and how to protect yourself. Keep the volume turned down when you can and be sure to take listening breaks. If you have to shout to hear yourself speak to someone three feet away or less, then it is too loud, and you should step away from the source of noise.

Have Your Hearing Assessed

The sooner you address a hearing loss the sooner you can take advantage of the benefits of amplified hearing. To find out more, schedule a hearing test with us today!