Is the world getting louder?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Oregon Clinic

The world is becoming a noisier place, and more people have hearing loss because of it. Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Over 5 million children and 26 million adults now have hearing loss due to noise. (American Speech and Hearing Association)

Every day sounds that may damage our hearing include noise from machines, power tools, traffic, sporting events, music, concerts, firearms, etc.

How loud is too loud?

Sound is measured in decibels. Damage to hearing occurs when the decibels are too high or you listen to noise for too long.  Industrial noise limits are imposed by law to protect employees who work in areas of high level noise. However, when individuals allow themselves to be exposed to loud noise on their own time, they risk damage to their hearing. Continued exposure to noise over 85 dB can cause hearing loss.

Examples of high decibel levels:

  • Lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic—90 dB
  • Chainsaw, pneumatic drill, snowmobile—100 dB
  • Sandblasting, loud rock concert, auto horn—115 dB
  • Gun muzzle blast, jet engine (such noise can cause pain, and even brief exposure injures unprotected ears)—120–149 dB

Yes, there is an app for that!

With technology, we can now use our cell phones to measure sounds using special apps. Apps allow you to measure many different types of noise (i.e Sound level meter apps, Decibel measuring apps, and more). You can find out how loud the noise is when your team scores, or when the previews are on in the theater.

Sound-level meter apps range in price from “free” to $49.99. And some can even alert you when the noise around you is too loud.  It is important to note that most of these apps do not meet the same standards as audiometric research or test equipment, and should be used only to help you make better decisions about hearing safety.

What else can I do to protect my hearing?

  • Avoid being around loud sounds, or at least put distance between yourself and the sound source.
  • If you can’t avoid exposure, wear earplugs, earmuffs, or other devices that dampen sound.
  • Turn down the volume on your personal listening device.
  • Limit exposure time.  The louder the sound is, the shorter duration time you should allow.

Consult your audiologist for more details.