You ever go to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” signs? It’s not exactly a warning you ignore. A warning like that (specifically if written in large, red letters) might even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s more challenging for people to pay attention to warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Current studies have found that millions of individuals ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (these studies specifically considered populations in the United Kingdom, but there’s no doubt the concern is more global than that). Knowledge is a huge part of the problem. It’s pretty intuitive to be scared of sharks. But fear of loud noise? And how do you know how loud is too loud?
Loud And Dangerous Sound is All Around us
It’s not just the machine shop floor or rock concert that are dangerous to your ears (not to downplay the hearing risks of these situations). There are potential hazards with many common 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 dangerous to your ears if you are exposed for more than two hours.
Read on to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would find in normal conversation. At this volume, there won’t be a limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioning unit. This volume will normally become harmful after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a good illustration of this sound level. This amount of exposure becomes hazardous in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
- 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up as high as it will go? That’s normally around this sound level on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be unsafe at this level.
- 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or extremely large sporting events) can produce instant damage and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 dB?
In general, you should consider anything 85 dB or above as putting your ears at risk. The issue is that it isn’t always obvious just how loud 85 dB is. It’s not tangible in the way that a shark is tangible.
And that’s one of the reasons why hearing warnings often go ignored, specifically when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. There are a couple of possible solutions to this:
- Suitable training and signage: This applies to workspaces, in particular. Signage and training can help reinforce the significant risks of hearing loss (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). Additionally, just how noisy your workplace is, can be clarified by signage. Helping employees recognize when hearing protection is suggested or necessary with proper training can be really helpful.
- Get an app: There isn’t an app that will immediately protect your ears. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Damage to your hearing can happen without you realizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Using this app to monitor noise levels, then, is the solution. This will help you develop a sense for when you’re entering the “danger zone” (Or, the app will simply tell you when things get too noisy).
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
No app and no signage will ever be 100%. So take the time to protect your hearing if you have any doubt. Noise damage, over a long enough period of time, can result in hearing loss. And it’s easier than ever to harm your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past mid way, especially if you’re listening all day. You require noise blocking headphones if you are constantly turning up the volume to block out background sound.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s essential to accept it. And in order to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. Safeguarding your ears, wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or decreasing your exposure, is pretty simple. But you have to know when to do it.
Today that should also be easier. Especially now that you understand what to be aware of.
Think you might have hearing loss? Schedule an exam.