We are exposed to a range of sounds and noise levels everyday. From alarm clocks, to traffic, watching TV, listening to a podcast using headphones, and passing by construction. Though this type of noise exposure is part of everyday life, some could be more harmful to hearing health. Loud noise exposure is a common cause of noise induced hearing loss, a medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Over 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss, the third most common chronic medical condition people live with today. There are several ways you can protect your hearing health on a daily basis, reducing your risk of experiencing impaired hearing.
How can loud noise impact hearing health?
One time or consistent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage the auditory system. Loud noise can irreparably damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of these cells which play a critical role in how sound is processed. These cells help convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that then get carried to the brain. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken sensory cells which reduces their capacity to process soundwaves effectively. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, producing hearing loss.
Sound that exceeds 85 decibels (dB) is considered potentially dangerous for hearing. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy traffic, an active restaurant during peak hours, and a blow dryer. There are various sources of noise we experience on an everyday basis that surpass 85dB and are hazardous for hearing health.
What are everyday activities that could harm hearing?
We interact with and navigate sound everyday. This includes being exposed to noise levels that can affect hearing health. A few common examples include the following:
- Household appliances: numerous types of household appliances that are used daily create noise near or above 85dB:
- blenders, food processors – up to 100dB
- power tools: drills, chainsaw etc. – up to 110dB
- lawn mower, leaf blower, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer: up to 90dB
- Social activities: social settings and activities are another example of ways we are exposed to excessive noise. Examples include:
- parties, loud restaurants, bars: 85-90dB
- attending a game in a sports arena or concert in a stadium: up to 110dB
- Electronic devices: we use a number of electronic devices in a day. Items like headphones and our phones are essential items. A common source of loud noise exposure is listening to audio from personal devices. This includes using earbuds or headphones to listen to music or podcasts from your phone. This can get up to 100dB at the highest volume setting.
These everyday sources of loud noise exposure can significantly affect hearing health. It is important to practice ways to protect your hearing in everyday life.
How can I protect my hearing health?
There are several ways you can protect your hearing health. A few strategies you can practice include:
- Wear hearing protection: this includes headphones, earmuffs, and earbuds which provide a physical barrier for the ears. This reduces the amount of loud noise you absorb, protecting your ears from loud noise exposure.
- Minimize volume: it is important to maintain lower volume settings. Be sure to reduce the volume on electronic devices, music, TV etc. The general rule of thumb is to reduce exposure time by half for every 3 decibel increase of noise (after 85dB).
- Reduce exposure: There are numerous ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise. This includes taking listening breaks throughout the day, avoiding noisy settings and opting for quieter places, driving with the windows rolled up etc.
- Test hearing regularly: another useful strategy is to have your hearing tested regularly. Hearing tests measure your hearing capacity in both ears which identifies any hearing loss that could be present. Even if you do not have hearing loss, getting a yearly test allows you to monitor your hearing health.
Practicing these tips can significantly reduce your risk of hearing loss. Protecting your hearing health in everyday life is an important way to prioritize your health and wellness. Contact us to learn about custom hearing protection options as well as to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.