Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)
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Our world is full of very loud sounds, and many of them could harm your hearing. Have you ever wondered what sounds damage your hearing health? Some of the answers might surprise you.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
There are several kinds of hearing loss, and hearing loss caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds is called noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). This hearing loss can affect anyone, regardless of age, and it’s becoming more and more common as our city streets and hobbies get louder and louder. You could be putting a strain on your hearing during your daily activities without even realizing it, and learning about sounds that can harm your hearing is the first step to protecting your hearing.
When you’re in a very loud environment, you’re exposing your ears to a lot of sound. Very loud sounds damage the delicate cells in the inner ear, and once these cells are damaged, they can’t process sound or send signals to the brain about the sounds around you. That’s when you experience hearing loss. NIHL can be very sudden, from exposure to one extremely loud burst of sound. More commonly, NIHL is a gradual process, and the loud sounds you encounter every day start to chip away at your hearing health.
Understanding Decibel Levels
The best way to understand what sounds can harm your hearing is to understand decibel levels. Decibels (dB) are how we measure the volume of sound, and the higher the number, the louder the sound. Any sounds louder than 85 dB can damage your hearing, and the louder the sound is, the sooner it will cause permanent hearing loss. Did you know that your hairdryer is between 80 – 90 dB? That’s the same volume as your kitchen blender and food processor, and all three can damage your ears.
Traffic and Heavy Machinery
One of the most common sounds that you encounter every day is the sound of traffic. From screeching bus brakes to the grinding of the subway, and the rumbling of heavy trucks, the hum of traffic often reaches 90 dB. Is there a construction site your daily commute to work? The heavy machinery and trucks driving in and out, or even the garbage truck that collects your trash, all add up to make traffic dangerous to your hearing.
Lawn Mower and Power Tools
Do you have a gas lawn mower? You could be damaging your ears every weekend when you cut the grass. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and other power tools are around 95 dB, and can hurt your hearing! Chain saws, table saws, or the sander you used on your deck last summer are all very loud, with sounds reaching 100 dB.
Personal Listening Devices
One of the hidden dangers to your hearing health is your smartphone, iPod, iPad, or any other personal listening device. With the volume turned up, these devices can often emit sounds of over 100 dB! And since your earbuds are directing the sounds right into your ear canal, you’re exposing yourself to dangerous sound levels. We often put in our earbuds to drown out other sounds in the environment, and listen for many hours at a time. Listening at this volume without giving your ears a rest can lead to hearing damage in as little as an hour.
Emergency Sirens and Firearms
Another sound that can damage your hearing are the emergency sirens that go wailing by. If they’re stopped near you, the sound is around 120 dB. This can harm your hearing in just a few minutes! Finally, one of the loudest sounds you’ll ever encounter is the sound of firearms at close range. These can be over 140 dB, and will cause pain and immediate hearing loss!
Professional Hearing Services
The world is full of sound, and knowing which ones can be harmful will help you protect your hearing. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to yell to be heard by someone standing next to you, it’s too loud. Carry foam earplugs in your bag for emergencies, and be sure to protect your hearing during noisy activities like music concerts, sports events, or an afternoon at the shooting range.
Visit us at Professional Hearing Services to learn more about the sounds that can harm your hearing, and the best way to protect your hearing.