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Some of the objects that can damage your hearing go without saying. Those who work on airfields wear advanced protection to deal with the excruciating sounds coming from airplanes. Any member of the armed forces will know that hearing protection is crucial to dealing with the sound of weapons, firearms, and explosives. Even those who are involved with loud music are likely attuned to the need to protect themselves from loud sound. Yet, did you know that household items can cause damage to your hearing as well?
In order to understand these risks, it is important to consider not only the maximum volume emitted by these devices but also the amount of time that can pass before harm is incurred. Sound pressure does not only damage our hearing through momentary short blasts, such as an explosion, but it can also accumulate over a duration of exposure, such as a shift at work. With this combination of volume and time in mind, we can consider the relative riskiness of many of the household items that seem harmless enough.
Time Thresholds for Hearing Damage
In general, you can go through life with quiet sounds without needing to worry about noise-related damage. Conversations, most nature sounds, and the quiet indoors of our homes are all safe to hear. When it comes to louder technologies, the amount of time is the essential piece of the puzzle of risk. Take, for example, a hair dryer. With volumes ranging up to 90 decibels, you would likely need to listen to that sound for 4 hours in a day in order to incur a risk of damage.
Most people will not get anywhere close to that amount of time, so the risk can be considered negligible. However, a professional hair stylist might cross into that territory. When considered in combination with hair dryers used by other stylists and the general sound at the salon, otherwise called the “noise floor,” that sound might well be worth protecting against. Particularly in a space with some echo or reverberation effects, the sound of a simple hair dryer can cross into the territory of risk.
Household Items and Hearing Damage
The necessary time for damage to occur means that most household items are not a serious risk for hearing damage. However, some of these items can be used for extended times, and those are the ones to keep in mind when it comes to protection. One of the most common loud household tools that is used for extended periods of time is the lawnmower. Most lawnmowers reach a maximum volume of 90 decibels, similar to a hair dryer held up to your ear.
Yet, it is much more common for a non-professional person to use a lawnmower for 4 hours than a hair dryer. If you have a large lawn, then you very well might be using this loud device in the range of potential risk. It is a good idea to use earplugs or noise-cancelling earmuffs while you’re mowing the lawn. By all means, don’t put on headphones or earbuds while you mow the lawn, because those devices can add to the total volume rather than detracting from it. Particularly if you follow your lawn mowing with weed whacking, you might run the risk of noise-related damage.
Protecting Your Hearing
When it comes to noise, the important threshold to remember is 85 decibels. Most experts think that sound up to that level isn’t a problem, but at and above 85 decibels you will need protection in place if the sound is present for an extended duration.
If you are curious about the decibel level of your activities, you can find free apps on your smartphone to measure that level. Be sure to take multiple readings in various locations in order to get the best sense of the volume of your household items. Very loud items can only be endured for a few minutes before hearing loss is a risk, so take a careful measure of things like blenders, snow blowers, motorcycles, and even louder objects like firearms and fireworks.
If you find yourself in a questionably risky situation, why not put in some foam earplugs? They might make you more comfortable, and they might protect your hearing for years to come.
To best monitor your hearing, it is important to have an annual hearing test to keep tabs on your hearing abilities! To schedule an appointment, contact us today.