Frontenac Hearing Clinic – How Loud is Too Loud?
Here is our recent article printed in Neighbours of Kingston Southwest magazine
How Loud is Too Loud?
We live in a loud world. Traffic, vacuums, barking dogs and crowds, even the most mundane sounds can cause damage to our hearing if we’re exposed for long enough. ‘Long enough’ might not be as long as you might expect. The good news is, we can help prevent noise induced hearing loss by wearing hearing protection or moving ourselves away from the source of the noise.
Noise induced hearing loss occurs in our inner ear, where the tiny hair-like structures process the sound. These structures can only handle so much intensity before they to breakdown. Around 85 dB is the level at which damage can start to occur with exposure. The level of sounds we hear every day range from whispers at 20-30 dB to sirens at around 120 dB. Lawn mowers, live sporting events and even wearing earbuds are activities that most of us don’t think twice about; these activities are loud enough to cause permanent damage to our hearing with enough exposure. In 2015 the World Health Organization reported nearly 50 percent of teens and young adults ages 12-35 are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from their personal music players. Most earbuds have a top volume range of about 85 dB – 110 dB. There are so many sounds in our noisy world that can cause damage, knowing a few of them will help get you started on the path to protecting your hearing.
We’ve put together a graphic to give you an idea of how loud some common sounds are and how much exposure you would need before potential damage occurs. Keep in mind, there are some factors that will influence our exposure, like loud jobs and hobbies. Since we are aware of these factors it makes it easier to prepare and protect ourselves.
Along with damage to our hearing, noise exposure can also cause tinnitus (ringing) in the ears. Often presenting as a high-pitched sound heard in one or both ears, tinnitus can be temporary or permanent and can be very annoying.
Preparation and protection are key. Just as you would wear a hard hat on a construction site, we should be training ourselves to wear hearing protection when we are in loud environments. Damage due to certain noises can happen in as little as a few minutes. While there will always be noise at unexpected times that we can‘t prepare for, we can and should be preparing for the times we can.