It is well understood that loud noises can irreversibly damage our hearing, but how loud is too loud? At Hearing Healthcare Centre, we say that anything over 80dB requires cautionary action. If you get ringing in the ears after an event then that is a sign that sounds are too loud. If you have to shout over competing noise then again that is a good indicator that the sounds are too loud. If your in an environment where the sound is very loud then we advise reducing the volume where possible, and where it is not to use ear protection.
Exposure to Loud Noise
Many occupations and hobbies expose people to certain kinds of noise that can permanently damage hearing. Using good hearing protection decreases the intensity, or loudness, of that noise and helps preserve your hearing.
Noise levels are usually measured in decibels – dB(A). The decibel scale reflects the sensitivity of human ears to different levels and pitches of sound. Here are some examples:
- 20dB(A) – a quiet room at night
- 40dB(A) – a quiet sitting room
- 60dB(A) – ordinary spoken conversation
- 80dB(A) – shouting
- 110dB(A) – a pneumatic drill nearby
- 130dB(A) – an aeroplane taking off 100m away
- 140dB(A) – the level at which noise causes pain for most people
Long exposure to sounds over 80dB(A) can damage your ears.
Below is an image to illustrate the loudness of certain sounds and the potential risk.
Prevention of NIHL
There are a number of ways to protect your hearing against Noise Induced Hearing Loss, and it’s especially important for young people who are much more likely to turn up the volume, not down. The use of earphones on smartphones, iPods and other devices is causing more hearing loss in Young People than ever before. It’s estimated that there’s a 30% increase in hearing loss in today’s teens than compared to the ‘80s. Try and encourage them to wear headphones instead of ear buds as they’re more efficient at blocking out background noise, and help them understand why they need to turn the volume down.
Even the slightest rise in volume brings its own danger to hearing. As a rough rule of thumb, if you need to raise your voice in order to be heard over the volume of the TV, radio or music, it’s too loud.
As a guide to safe exposure, we advise following the 60/60 rule. Listen at 60 percent volume for 60 minutes and then take a break.
Protection against NIHL
There are some situations where loud noise is inevitable, such as concerts or large sporting events. Though you can be at risk even in the home and garden. Domestic tools such as power drills, saws, sanders and lawn mowers can be loud enough to have the ability to cause damage. Protect your hearing by using earplugs or protectors, and if you can get away from the noise for a 10-minute break from time to time, so much the better. If you’ve been exposed to loud noise for some time, make sure you rest your hearing in order to reduce the risk of permanent deafness – the charity Action on Hearing Loss advises that for every two hours spent in a 100 decibel atmosphere, e.g. clubbing, you need to rest your hearing for at least 16 hours.
WHO Article – Knowing The Risks
The WHO (World Health Organisation) recently published an article stating:
“Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, according to WHO. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”
At Hearing Healthcare Centre, we are dedicated to, not only the treatment of hearing loss, but the prevention of avoidable NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss).
With this in mind, we offer a range of custom-made, silicon moulded ear protection devices, which are purpose made to be effective in a number of excessive noise conditions. Our noise protection is particularly valuable for musicians, sound technicians, shooters, motorsport enthusiasts and swimmers (kayakers, surfers etc.)