You ever go to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” signs? It’s not hard to realize that you shouldn’t ignore a caution like that. A sign like that (specifically if written in big, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. But people usually don’t heed warnings about their hearing in the same way for some reason.
Recent studies have found that millions of people neglect warning signs when it comes to their hearing (this research specifically considered populations in the UK, but there’s no doubt the problem is more global than that). Knowledge is a big part of the issue. Being afraid of sharks is rather instinctive. But the majority of people don’t have an overt fear of loud sounds. And how do you know how loud is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Dangerously Loud Sounds
It’s not only the machine shop floor or rock concert that are dangerous to your hearing (although both of those venues are, indeed, dangerous to your hearing). Many every-day sounds can be harmful. That’s because exposure time is as hazardous as the volume. Even lower-level noises, like dense city traffic, can be damaging to your hearing if you are exposed for more than a couple of hours.
Generally, here’s an approximate outline of when loud becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this volume level. You should be perfectly fine at this level for an indefinite period.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and a lawnmower are at this level of sound. After around two hours this level of sound becomes damaging.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a good illustration of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: An approaching subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this volume (of course, this depends on the city). This volume can get hazardous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to max volume? On most smartphones, that’s right around this volume. This level of exposure becomes dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Any sound over 120 dB (think loud rock show or extremely large sporting events) can produce instant injury and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally speaking, you’re in the danger zone when you’re experiencing any sound 85 dB or higher. The problem is that it isn’t always apparent just how loud 85 dB is. It’s not tangible in the way that a shark is tangible.
And hearing cautions often get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is particularly true. Here are a couple of potential solutions:
- Suitable signage and training: This especially refers to the workplace. The real dangers of hearing loss can be reinforced by training and sufficient signage (and the benefits of hearing protection). Also, just how noisy your workspace is, can be clarified by signage. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is necessary or recommended.
- Get an app: There isn’t an app that will immediately safeguard your ears. But there are a few sound level metering apps. Injury to your ears can occur without you recognizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Making use of this app to keep track of sound levels, then, is the solution. This can help you develop a sense for when you’re entering the “danger zone” (Or, the app will merely let you know when things get too loud).
When in Doubt: Protect
Apps and signage aren’t a foolproof solution. So if you’re in doubt, take the time to safeguard your ears. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost certainly create hearing issues. And it’s easier than ever to harm your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your music too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, specifically if you’re listening all day. You require noise blocking headphones if you are constantly turning up the volume to block out background sound.
That’s the reason why it’s more essential than ever to recognize when the volume becomes too loud. Raising your own knowledge and recognition is the answer if you want to do that. Protecting your ears, using earplugs, earmuffs, or reducing your exposure, is pretty simple. That begins with a little recognition of when you need to do it.
That should be easier today, too. Particularly now that you know what to be aware of.
Think you could have hearing loss? Schedule an exam.