Most of us think of hearing loss as something that happens as we age or when we experience a burst of very loud sounds. Did you know, though, that there are noises we experience every day that could permanently damage our hearing?
We may not pay much attention to these commonplace noises, as we have grown used to them. They’re just a part of our routine. However, the long-lasting effects they have on our hearing is anything but routine. Learn more about everyday noises that cause noise-induced hearing loss.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Currently, noise-induced hearing loss is one of the leading forms of hearing loss (the other one is presbycusis – age-related hearing loss). Noise-induced hearing loss could lead to sensorineural hearing loss, which is one of three types of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the hair cells of our inner ears are permanently damaged and no longer have the capacity to transmit neural signals to our brains to be registered as sounds.
Noise-induced hearing loss may occur in after a one-time exposure to very loud noise, such as a firecracker or explosion (120 decibels), but it may also occur gradually. Gradual noise-induced hearing loss happens over a long period of time, when people are exposed to sounds at the 85-decibel range or above. Hearing specialists agree that listening to a sound at 85 decibels for an hour already has the potential to lead to permanent hearing loss.
Here’s the concern: there are many noises we experience in our everyday life that meet or exceed this 85-decibel level. Below are a few examples.
Home Stereo Speakers at Maximum Volume
Listening to your favorite records really helps your household chores fly by, and having a great stereo system definitely adds ambiance to your house parties. However, be mindful of the volume level. Home stereo systems, at maximum volume, could hit anywhere between 110 to 140 decibels.
When a one-time exposure to 120 decibels could cause permanent hearing loss on the spot, it is dangerous to keep your music at 110 decibels for an extended period of time! Adhere to the 60-60 rule provided by hearing specialists: 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Take breaks to give your ears a rest.
As a side note, this also includes watching movies and TV. If you notice that you, or your loved one, have the volume turned up to maximum on the home entertainment system, this could be an early sign of hearing loss. Schedule a consultation with us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor to learn more about your hearing abilities.
Your Phone or Tablet
These days, we’re on our phones a whole lot, or we’ve got them nearby. Some of us even watch movies or TV, or listen to music, on our phones with earbuds or headphones. The same goes for tablets. The danger here is not the phone or the tablet itself, but the use of earbuds.
Earbuds are definitely convenient, whether you’re commuting or at the gym. In fact, most smartphones nowadays come with a set of earbuds, with a small microphone for phone calls. The problem is, earbuds do not cancel out background noise in your environment. So, when you’re using those earbuds, you tend you crank up the volume to hear the phone call, music, or other media.
To compound the problem, the position of earbuds in your ear canal close to your eardrum creates noise conditions that have been compared to drilling in a coal mine. In other words, earbuds can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
Consider using noise-canceling headphones, which do a better job at keeping out background noise and thus allows you to keep volumes lower. Again, consider the 60-60 rule when listening to music or other media. You may also be interested in apps that help you control the volume on phones and tablets, especially if you have kids who are using headphones a lot!
Do you zip around on a motorbike? Are you a recreational snowmobiler or dirt-biker? Or maybe, you enjoy low rides on your power mower around the yard. In any case, these motorized vehicles have one thing in common: damaging decibel levels.
The engines on these vehicles produce sounds that range from 85 to 100 decibels. When you’re riding these, consider the use of ear protection. Custom ear protection, made from a mold of your ear, does a better job at keeping out sound, though you may also consider foam or silicon earplugs at the very least.
Live Entertainment Events
Whether you’re a music fan or a sports fan – or both – it’s important to keep in mind that live entertainment events often have very loud levels of noise. Between announcements over the loudspeakers, guitar solos through the speakers, or screaming fans, the conditions in concert venues and stadiums can rise to dangerously high decibels (between 110 to 140).
Before you head out to see your favorite musical acts or home team, don’t forget to grab your ear protection!
For the do-it-yourself home carpenter, it is important to get a pair of custom ear plugs. You may also use over-the-ear protection when you’re using power tools. The sound of a chainsaw or nail gun clocks in around 110 to 140 decibels. No home improvement project is worth risking your hearing! Contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today to learn more about custom ear protection.