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We absorb varying levels and types of sound throughout the day. From commuting to work (or working from home), to listening to music, completing household chores, and taking walks; noise is part of daily life. Did you know that some of these activities can contribute to hearing loss?
Hearing loss is the third most common, chronic condition that people experience. Impacting nearly 1 in 5 people, hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including environmental exposure to loud noise. Being aware of the work and leisure activities you regularly engage that can potentially harm your hearing; and practicing safety measures is an important way to protect your hearing health!
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Exposure to loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss. Sound is measured in units referred to as decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB is considered potentially damaging to hearing. This is the equivalent of busy city traffic and kitchen appliances like a blender. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), people can absorb noise at 85dB for a maximum of 8 hours per day. OHSA further defines the safety threshold for hearing by estimating that exposure time for noise above 85dB should be cut in half for every 3 decibels increase:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 30min
So the greater the volume, the less time we can be safely exposed to it. One time or consistent exposure that exceeds this duration can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to noise induced hearing loss.
There are thousands of hair cells in the inner ear which play an integral role in how we hear. These hair cells (in the cochlea) help translate soundwaves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain where they are processed, enabling us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can cause these hair cells to lose sensitivity and/or die which makes it more challenging for the brain to process incoming sound. These hair cells, unlike other types of cells, do not regenerate which means that damage is permanent.
Everyday Activities that Could Harm Hearing
There are numerous daily activities that we engage in that could be harmful to hearing. A few examples include:
- Household Appliances: several household appliances produce sound above 85dB:
- Vacuum cleaner: 80-85 dB
- Hair dryer, blender: 80-90dB
- Lawn mower: 90dB
- Hand drill: 100dB
- Travel: everyday modes of travel can also be a source of loud noise absorption. Commuting regularly and/or taking flights are sources of increased noise exposure:
- City traffic: 80-90dB
- Airplane takeoff: 140dB
- Work Environments: work environments are a common way that people are exposed to loud noise. There are numerous types of loud work environments: airports, construction sites, entertainment venues, bars, restaurants etc.
- According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace
- Leisure Activities: there is also a range of leisure/social activities that you could be participating in often that exceed 85dB like: attending concerts, being in sports venues, loud restaurants and bars, gun ranges etc.
- Listening to Music: another common source of loud noise exposure is using earbuds or headphones to listen to audio on personal devices which depending on your volume settings, can easily exceed 85dB.
- The World Health Organization estimates that among people between 12-35 (globally), 50% listen to unsafe levels of sound through personal audio devices
Though these activities and appliances are part of daily living, there are useful ways you can minimize their impact on your hearing.
Protecting Your Hearing Health
Noise induced hearing loss is preventable! By actively practicing ways to mitigate the impact of loud noise, you can reduce your risk of impairing your hearing. A few helpful tips include:
- Know the volume by downloading an app to measure the decibels in your environment which allows you to identify safe exposure time. Also, maintain lower volume settings on personal devices!
- Take listening breaks by turning devices and appliances off. This gives your auditory system time to rest and recover from actively processing sound all day.
- Wearing protective gear like earmuffs, earbuds, headphones etc. while navigating noisy settings. This gear serves as a protective barrier, reducing the amount of noise you absorb.
If you are concerned about your hearing abilities, it is important to take a hearing test. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!