We are absorbing and processing sound constantly. From alarm clocks to household appliances, driving, having conversations, and listening to music – sound is a major part of everyday life. Typically, many of these sounds are not particularly risky for hearing but there are some types of everyday noise that can impact hearing health. Noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Caused by one time or consistent exposure to loud noise, noise induced hearing loss is permanent. It is important to be aware of the types of sound you are regularly exposed to and practice safety measures to protect your hearing health.
Impact of Noise on Hearing Health
Loud noise can irreparably damage the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. This includes the ears and brain which work together to absorb and process speech and sound. Loud noise can damage the hair cells that are in the inner ear. The cochlea is filled with thousands of tiny sensory cells which are essential for the auditory system. These cells receive incoming sound waves and convert them into electrical signals for the brain. The brain is then able to continue processing these signals and assign meaning to them, allowing us to understand what we hear.
Loud noise cna desentize these sensory cells, reducing their capacity to perform their critical function effectively. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information which disrupts the hearing process. Sensory cells in the inner ear do not regenerate and cannot be repaired – humans are actually born with all the hair cells in the inner ear that we’ll ever have. This means that any damage they experience is permanent, resulting in chronic hearing loss.
Everyday Sounds That Can Harm Hearing
Sound is measured in units known as decibels (dB) and sound near or above 85dB is hazardous for hearing health. This is equivalent to traffic, busy restaurants at peak hours, and a hair dryer which highlights that there are sounds you are likely exposed to on a daily basis that can be harmful. Examples include the following:
- Household appliances: many household items produce noise near or above 85dB:
- power tools: drills, chainsaw etc. – up to 110dB
- blenders, food processors, juicers – up to 100dB
- lawn mower, leaf blower, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer: up to 90dB
- Social activities: wide ranging social activities and settings including:
- noisy restaurant, bar, party: 85-90dB
- attending a game in an arena or stadium, going to a concert: up to 110dB
- Environmental Noise: this includes sounds in the environment like:
- Traffic: sirens, honks etc. – 85-90dB
- Airplanes: produce up to 130dB of noise
- Construction site: use heavy machinery that produce noise levels of 110 -120dB
- Electronic devices: streaming audio like music or podcasts from your electronic devices, via headphones or earbuds, can get up to 100dB at the highest volume setting.
These everyday examples of excessive noise levels demonstrates the importance of protecting your hearing to mitigate the impact this can have on hearing health.
Tips to Protect Your Hearing health
Noise induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. There are several simple tips and measures you can integrate into daily life to protect your hearing health. This includes:
- Wear protective gear: there are several types of hearing protection: headphones, earplugs, earmuffs etc. This creates a physical barrier for the ears, reducing the amount of loud noise that is absorbed.
- Measure noise levels: identifying the noise level in the environment you are in is a helpful way to know how long you can be safely exposed to that noise. You can do this by downloading an app that measures the decibels where you are. People can be exposed to 85dB for 8 hours a day. For every 3 dB increase of sound, reduce exposure time by half.
- Reduce noise exposure: there are various ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise including: avoiding noisy settings – especially during peak hours, taking alternative routes to avoid construction sites, maintaining lower volume settings on electronic devices like the TV, taking listening breaks throughout the day to provide rest time for your ears etc.
- Have hearing tested regularly: another great tip is to have your hearing regularly assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. This allows you to track your hearing health and identify any symptoms that need to be treated.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your hearing health from everyday noises.