What do eight hours of city traffic, 30 minutes in a night club, and 30 seconds of leaf blowing all have in common?
They’re all loud enough and long enough to cause permanent hearing loss.
If you can still understand conversations in crowded rooms, and take down a grocery list over the phone without the help of hearing aids—great! Let’s keep it that way. Our audiologists explain what you need to know about noise, how it affects your ears, and how to prevent hearing loss.
How Loud is It?
Some sounds are loud and sudden, like fireworks (watch us on Daytime Columbus and the special on the July 4th Red White & Boom celebration) or gunshots. Then there’s the constant, relentless din of city traffic. There are two main aspects to what your ears can handle before they start losing their ability to receive and process sounds correctly:
- The level of noise (decibels = dB), and
- The amount of time the person is exposed to that level of noise before hearing loss becomes permanent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety (NIOSH) list some common noises that the average person my come into contact on any given day—and the time limit at which the ears either need a rest:
|Sounds||Intensities||Permissible exposure time|
|City Traffic, inside the car||85 dB||8 hours|
|Bulldozer||88 dB||4 hours|
|Jazz Concert||91 dB||2 hours|
|Power Mower||94 dB||1 hour|
|Nightclub||97 dB||30 minutes|
|Ambulance Siren, inside driver window down||100 dB||15 minutes|
|Rock Concert, Leaf Blower||115 dB||30 seconds|
For extreme perspective: sitting in the library measures to about 30 dB, while fireworks and gunshots measure about 150 dB. You can see how just a few decibels can drastically ratchet up the noise level and reduce the safe time exposure level.
Hearing Loss Prevention at Work
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), about 30 million people work in a hazardous noise environment; an average of 21,000 people a year report permanent, significant, work-related hearing loss. Extend that 21,000 out to their friends, family and co-workers, and you can imagine how difficult the situation really is for so many people across the country. OSHA also reports that hearing loss-related worker’s compensation claims average about $242 million annually—making it a very expensive problem as well.
For that reason, NIOSH guidelines urge employers to ensure that their workers not be exposed to any more than 85 dB during the eight-hour work day—less, if possible. While some workplace acoustics engineering options can cut down on noise levels, the most direct ways to prevent hearing loss for the most people in the workplace include:
- Hearing protection devices (ear plugs, headphones, etc.)
- Regular hearing tests (especially recommended for industrial work situations)
- Worker education about work-related hearing loss
- Administrative controls (regulations, record keeping, consistent evaluations and noise audits)
Specific Types of Hearing Loss Prevention Strategies
Noise environments that you might be exposed to occupationally or recreationally are different. So it is important to select noise controls and ear protection that fits the situation appropriately. The following are some examples of how hearing loss prevention techniques can be applied in different situations:
Hearing Protection for Hunters and Law Enforcement
Whether you are hunting game, practicing at the firing range or tracking down criminals, acute hearing is essential. Gunshots are among the most damaging, high-decibel sounds there are, and if you are exposed to them even briefly, they can cause irreversible hearing loss. Standard or custom electronic hearing protection devices can be configured to amplify ambient sounds while lowering gunfire noise for people in these situations.
Hearing Protection for Musicians and Their Fans
Musicians have a particularly challenging situation: they need to hear the most nuanced sounds while also protecting their hearing from the sounds they and their fellow musicians are creating together. Over-the-counter earplugs are completely inadequate for the job. Musicians require custom ear molds and in-ear monitors that can deliver the notes they must hear while protecting their ears from damaging decibels.
Watch this video for helpful advice from Hearing Health Solutions
If you are a frequent concert attendee (classical, punk and everything else), there are also custom ear molds for you. (Note: turning your MP3 player all the way up can measure up to 105 dB, which can cause hearing loss after less than 10 minutes, so go easy on the volume controls.)
Hearing Protection for Industrial Work Settings
If you work in an airport, factory, workshop, on a farm or with landscaping equipment, or around cars and motorcycles, the noise can regularly go to 90 decibels and higher for prolonged periods of time. Properly fitted industrial earplugs can really help lower the decibel level that reaches your ears, thereby protecting your hearing from permanent damage.
Find Out How to Protect Your Hearing
Call us today at 888-638-5095 to learn about custom hearing loss prevention solutions that can handle your sound environment!