How are the noises you hear every day impacting your hearing? The truth is that we're exposed to a number of damaging noise levels regularly, even if we’re not always aware of them.
And when it comes to protecting your hearing, understanding how your ears process sound will help you determine how exposure to them may be affecting your hearing health. This article explores what causes hearing loss, different noise levels, and how to protect against noise-induced hearing loss.
How is sound measured?
There are several causes of hearing loss. And, everyone has a different tolerance to loud noises. Generally speaking, any long-term exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing damage.
The intensity of a sound is measured in decibels or dB. Sounds 70 dB or below are considered safe, while sounds at or above 85 dB are likely to damage hearing over time.
To better understand the difference between which noises are safe and considered dangerous, the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) developed a noise chart. Listed below are the average decibel levels for everyday sounds around you.
|Painful impulse noise—Not safe for any amount of time.|
|150 dB(A) = fireworks at 3 feet, firecracker|
|140 dB(A) = firearms|
|Painful steady noise—Not safe for any amount of time.|
|130 dB(A) = jackhammer|
|120 dB(A) = jet plane takeoff, siren, pneumatic drill|
|Extremely loud—Dangerous to hearing; wear earplugs or earmuffs.|
|112 dB(A) = maximum output of some MP3 players, rock concert, chainsaw|
|106 dB(A) = gas leaf blower, snowblower|
|Very loud—Dangerous to hearing; wear earplugs or earmuffs.|
|91 dB(A) = subway, passing motorcycle, gas mower|
|Moderate—Safe listening for any amount of time.|
|70 dB(A) = group conversation, vacuum cleaner, alarm clock|
|60 dB(A) = typical conversation, dishwasher, clothes dryer|
|Faint—Safe listening for any amount of time.|
|30 dB(A) = whisper, quiet library|
Signs of harmful noise
An easy way to protect yourself from harmful noise is to pay attention to warning signs that might damage your hearing. A sound may be harmful if:
- You struggle to hear other people talk over the sound.
- Your ears start to hurt, or the sounds become uncomfortable to hear.
- There's ringing in your ears after hearing a sound.
- Other sounds seem muffled once you leave an area with loud, overbearing sounds.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable condition. It doesn't happen overnight and usually takes years of exposure to the noise-causing it before it can be detected.
Protecting your hearing
Don’t let noise stand in the way of your lifestyle. Protect your hearing with high-fidelity earplugs that attenuate harmful noises by 15 to 30 decibels and still offer you the crisp sounds you want to hear.