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Everyday Noises that Can Cause Hearing Loss and Tools to Protect Your Hearing
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Mar 30, 2015
It's estimated that 10 million Americans suffer with noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, noise is one of the most common occupational hazards today, with as many as 30 million Americans being exposed to harmful noise levels at work.
We register sound through little hairs that vibrate in our inner ears in response to different noises. When these hairs are exposed to a sudden burst of very loud noise or to a steady stream of fairly loud noise, they can get damaged, resulting in hearing loss.
Sound pressure is measured in decibels (dB). Here are some everyday sounds and their average decibel rankings:
|Very faint, rustling leaves||
|Busy city traffic||
|Leaf blower, rock concert, chainsaw||
|Ambulance, jack hammer||
|Jet plane from 100 feet||
How loud is too loud?
Steady exposure to noise that reaches 85 dB can produce hearing loss. A one-time exposure to very loud noises like a gunshot at 140 dB can also cause hearing loss. Listening to music with earphones on an iPhone at a standard volume level of 5 for 15 minutes a day is enough to cause permanent damage. The volume at most movie theaters and the level of amplification used by many contemporary praise worship teams at church are at damage-inducing levels.
Since it's not practical to walk around with a meter that allows you to measure dB, a good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice in order to be heard by a person who is a couple of feet away, the noise level is considered hazardous.
Another practical measure is to carefully observe for ringing in your ears or if sounds are flat or dull after leaving a noisy environment. If either of these conditions are present, you were probably exposed to a hazardous level of noise.
If you want to objectively measure the number of decibels of noise you are subjecting your inner ears to in various settings, you can use a simple decibel meter like the one found here:
We keep ear plugs in a kitchen cupboard right by our blender. Since we blend up smoothies and soups almost every day, we're pretty disciplined in plugging our ears and having our boys hold their hands to their ears whenever we blend.
If you are regularly around harmful noises at work or home, I recommend that you strongly consider using expandable or pre-molded earplugs. You can find them at almost any pharmacy. Here is a brand that I like at Amazon:
An alternative is to use hearing protection earmuffs - two that I can recommend can be found at the following pages:
Or if you don't like the feeling of earmuffs on your head, you can use the following:
If you have children and other family members who like to listen to music on their phones or in their cars, please share this information with them so that they're aware of how their choices today may affect them in the future.
For more information on noise-induced hearing loss and what you can do to prevent it, please visit the website for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
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