Hearing loss is something that comes with old age and working in noisy places, right? No, it is not.
Our house has gone quiet now that our children are all grown up and in their own homes. However, I miss the associated sounds — better referred to as noises — of a bunch of toddlers and teens. By the same token, I can recall many times when I wished for silence. I also remember dishing out stern warnings about hearing loss from excessive noise, not that they took me seriously then.
I recently came across a website called “It’s a noisy planet.” Oh, how I wished I had all that information years ago. At the time when our children were still the primary sources of excessive noise in our home. Let me share some of it.
This video is provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health
Kitchen noises versus television
Picture yourself in the open plan kitchen with the dishwasher running. The children are watching a nearby TV, and they turn the volume up because the dishwasher is noisy. Now you need to use the vacuum cleaner and the blender, forcing them to turn the volume up even more.
Sound levels that could cause hearing loss
The units of measure for the noise level of sounds are decibels, abbreviated as dB. Humans can only hear certain pitches or frequencies. Therefore, an added ”A,” such as dBA, indicates that it is a noise in the range that people can hear. While a single, extremely loud noise such as an explosion can cause immediate damage, long-term exposure causes progressive damage.
Decibel levels that cause hearing loss
Only sounds higher than 70 dBA are likely to damage hearing, depending on the following periods of exposure:
- 110 dBA could cause damage after 2 minutes.
- 100 dBA exposure for longer than 14 minutes is harmful.
- 85 dBA cause damage after a few hours.
Along with decibel levels and the length of exposure, the closeness to the noise also affects the damage level. The further away from the sound, the less the damage caused.
Examples of sound levels
Teenagers often use devices that produce dangerous noise levels. For example, music played through headphones typically exceeds 85 dBA. As a matter of fact, the highest headphone volumes are between 94 and 110 dBA. Interestingly, the intensity of a 110 dBA sound is 100 times more than at 85 dBA. Here’s a list of everyday sounds and their decibel levels as provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health. :
- A pin dropped: 0 dBA
- Whispering voices: 30 dBA
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dBA
- Movie theaters: 74-104 dBA
- Heavy city traffic and school cafeterias: 85 dBA
- Tractor or Lawnmower: 80-100 dBA
- Motorcycle or dirt bike: 80-110 dBA
- Music playing through headphones at maximum volume, live concerts, and sports events: 94-110 dBA
- Ambulance or fire engine siren: 110-129 dBA
- Jet taking off: 140 dBA
- Fireworks: 140-160 dBA
Precautions to prevent hearing loss
The sensible thing to do is to turn down the volume on music devices, televisions etc. If that is not an option, move a safe distance away from the source of the noise. Take particular care at live music events, and avoid the areas close to the concert speakers. If you have no ear protection handy, use your hands to close your ears.
Hearing loss can build up over time, and damage cannot be repaired.