Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s not exactly a warning you ignore. You might even think twice about swimming at all with a sign like that (if the sign is written in big red letters that’s especially true). For some reason, though, it’s difficult for people to heed warnings concerning their hearing in the same way.
Recent studies have found that millions of people ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (these studies exclusively considered populations in the UK, but there’s little doubt the concern is more global than that). Knowledge is a huge part of the issue. It’s rather instinctive to be afraid of sharks. But the majority of individuals don’t have an overt fear of loud noises. And how do you know how loud is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Dangerously Loud Noises
Your ears are not just in peril at a rock concert or construction site (not to minimize the hearing risks of these situations). There are potential risks with many every-day sounds. That’s because it’s not only the volume of a sound that presents a danger; it’s also how long you’re exposed. Even lower-level sounds, like dense city traffic, can be damaging to your hearing if you are exposed for more than a couple of hours.
Read on to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: Normal conversation would be at this volume level. At this level, there won’t be a limit to how long you can safely be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioner. This volume will usually become harmful after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a good example of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: This is the level of sound you might encounter at a mid-size sports event or an approaching subway train (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 110 dB: Have you ever cranked your Spotify music up to max volume? On most smartphones, that’s right around this volume. 5 minutes will be enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock show or extremely large sports events) can bring about instant damage and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally speaking, you should look at anything 85 dB or above as putting your hearing at risk. But it can be hard to know how loud 85 dB is and that’s the problem. It’s not tangible the way that a shark is tangible.
And that’s one reason why hearing cautions frequently go neglected, when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is particularly true. There are a couple of possible solutions to this:
- Suitable signage and training: This particularly refers to the workplace. The real hazards of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). In addition, just how noisy your workplace is, can be clarified by signage. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is needed or suggested.
- Download an app: Your hearing can’t be directly safeguarded with an app. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Injury to your hearing can occur without you recognizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Utilizing this app to keep track of sound levels, then, is the answer. Using this method will make it more instinctive to distinguish when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (and you will also discern right away when things are getting too noisy).
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
No signage or app will ever be flawless. So make the effort to protect your ears if you are in doubt. Noise damage, over a long enough period of time, can lead to hearing loss. And it’s easier than ever to damage your ears (all you need to do is turn your earpods up a little too loud).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, especially if you’re listening all day. You require noise blocking headphones if you are continually cranking up the volume to cover up background sound.
That’s why it’s more significant than ever to identify when the volume becomes too loud. Increasing your own knowledge and recognition is the answer if you want to do that. It isn’t hard to minimize your exposure or at least wear hearing protection. That starts with a little knowledge of when you should do it.
That should be easier these days, too. Particularly now that you know what to be aware of.
Schedule a hearing examination right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss.