Have you ever gone to the beach and seen one of those “Beware of Shark” warning signs? It’s not really a sign you dismiss. You may even rethink swimming at all with a sign like that (if the warning is written in big red letters that’s particularly true). For some reason, though, it’s more challenging for people to heed warnings concerning their hearing in the same way.
Recent research has found that millions of individuals neglect warning signs regarding their hearing (this research specifically considered populations in the UK, but there’s little doubt the problem is more global than that). Part of the issue is awareness. It’s fairly intuitive to be fearful of sharks. But most individuals don’t have an overt fear of loud sounds. And how do you know how loud is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Hazardously Loud Sounds
It isn’t just the rock concerts or the machine shop floors that are dangerous to your ears (although both of those venues are, without a doubt, hazardous to your hearing). There are potential dangers with many every-day sounds. That’s because it isn’t exclusively the volume of a sound that is dangerous; it’s also the duration. Even lower-level noises, such as dense city traffic, can be damaging to your ears when experienced 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 level, there won’t be any limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the sound level of heavy traffic, a lawnmower, or an air conditioner. After about two hours this level of sound becomes damaging.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of how loud a motorcycle is. This amount of exposure becomes hazardous in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
- 100 dB: An approaching 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? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. 5 minutes will be enough to be dangerous at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can occur at or above this level (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock concert).
What Does 85 dB Sound Like?
In general, you’re hearing is in peril when you’re experiencing any sound 85 dB or louder. The issue is that it’s not always apparent just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.
And hearing warnings frequently get neglected for this reason particularly when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. There are a couple of potential solutions to this:
- Get an app: Your hearing can’t be immediately safeguarded with an app. But there are a number of free apps that can work as sound level monitors. It’s difficult to determine what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be injured without you even realizing it. Using this app to monitor sound levels, then, is the answer. This can help you establish a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (Or, the app will simply let you know when things get too loud).
- Sufficient signage and training: This goes for workspaces, in particular. The real risks of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the advantages of hearing protection). Additionally, just how noisy your workplace is, can be clarified by signage. Training can help employees know when hearing protection is necessary or recommended.
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
No signage or app will ever be perfect. So when in doubt, take the time to safeguard your ears. Noise damage, over a long enough period of time, can lead to hearing loss. And these days, it’s never been easier to harm your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).
You shouldn’t increase the volume past mid way, especially if you’re listening all day. You need noise blocking headphones if you are constantly cranking up the volume to cover up background noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to recognize it. Increasing your own understanding and awareness is the answer if you want to do that. It isn’t difficult to minimize your exposure or at least wear ear protection. But you have to know when to do it.
That should be easier today, too. Particularly now that you know what to look for.
Schedule a hearing test today if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss.