How Loud is too Loud?
How do you know when loud noises are impairing your hearing? If you’re interested in protecting your hearing, you’ll want to find out more about hearing loss causes, earplugs, and much more. Let’s dive in.
How loud is too loud? Sound or sound volume is measured in decibels or dB. Sounds that are 70 dB or below are considered safe, while sounds at or above 85 dB are likely to damage hearing over time. Research has found that individuals exposed to noise levels at 85 dB or higher run a serious risk for hearing loss.
In fact, nowadays children nowadays are exposed to higher volumes such as 94-110 dB when listening to music through headphones at considerable volumes. For reference, 110 dB is 100x more intense than 85 dB!
Curious to learn more? Read on.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by many factors. The topmost two most common causes are is from the process of natural aging and or exposure to loud noise over extended periods of time. Other most common causes of hearing loss include:
- Noise exposure
- Disease or virus
Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by:
- Excessive noise exposure
- Viral infections
- High fevers
However, not all hearing loss is the same. Let’s learn more.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss - conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
- Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is a result of obstructions in the middle or outer ear - typically due to tumors, fluids, ear formation, or earwax. This obstruction prevents sound from getting into the inner ear.
Can it be treated? Yes. With medicine or through a surgical procedure.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the most common types of hearing loss. When the inner hair cells and ear nerves are damaged, hearing is lost. This is frequently caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. Sensorineural hearing loss affects the pathways of your inner ear to your brain.
Can it be corrected? No. In most cases, sensorineural hearing cannot be corrected through surgery or medication. Nonetheless, it can be prevented from worsening through the use of hearing protection.
- Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is exactly what it sounds like you're thinking of - a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
In order to correct or treat any medical condition, you must know what your body is going through prior to treatment. Consult with your audiologist or hearing professional to help you determine the type, degree, and cause of your hearing loss.
Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss
- Use Hearing Protection
The best way to protect yourself while avoiding harmful noises is by wearing high-fidelity earplugs. This will allow you to continue doing the activities you enjoy while protecting your hearing!
How to know if specific noises are loud enough to be harmful?
- You can’t hear what people near you are saying.
- Your ears are hurting.
- You have to raise your voice exponentially to speak to others.
- You experience a ringing noise in your ears or muffled sensation afterward.
Not only will you prevent harm to your hearing if you wear proper hearing protection when experiencing these situations, but you will also be able to continue with your day-to-day life per usual. High-fidelity earplugs preserve sound quality instead of blocking it out. So, if you’re in a music festival, at work, or anywhere else, pop them in and listen to sounds with a noise reduction ranging from at 16- 21 dB less .- safely!
Here are a few references for common decibels:
- Whisper - 30 dB
- Conversation - 70 - 85 dB
- Traffic 70 - 85 dB
- Motorcycle - 90dB
- Full volume on headphones - 100-110 dB
- Airplane taking off - 120+ dB
If you find it handy, you can download a smartphone app to measure noise levels to know when it’s the right time to use hearing protection.
- Be Aware of Volume When Listening to Music
Listening to loud music through headphones and earphones is unhealthy and one of the biggest threats to your hearing.
Avoid damaging your hearing by doing the following:
- Use noise-canceling headphones or earphones (not too loud!).
- Turn the volume up to a comfortable level, not higher.
- Don’t listen to music over 60% of the maximum volume.
- Take a break between “jam sessions”.
Even trying to turn down the volume a little bit can make a huge difference! to your hearing damage risk.
- Take Precautions at Work
If your work requires you to be exposed to loud sounds and noises, it’s imperative that you speak to your HR department or manager as soon as possible. Why? Because your employer must make the necessary changes to reduce your exposure to loud noises.
Here are a few examples:
- Using quieter equipment.
- Ensuring you are not exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time.
- Provide proper hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs.
If you are given hearing protection, make sure you wear it, and insert it properly, to protect your hearing.
2. Test your Hearing
Getting your hearing tested as soon as possible is crucial, especially if you think you might be losing your hearing. The earlier, the better! Once you know what’s going on, you can do something about it.
Consider having regular hearing checks (about once a year) if you’re at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss because of your work or hobbies - for instance, if you’re a musician or work in construction.
Hearing Loss Treatments
Depending on the hearing loss that you have, some treatments include:
- Removing Wax Blockages: Getting your earwax blockage removed by a professional can potentially reverse some symptoms of hearing loss.
- Surgical procedure: Hearing loss can oftentimes be treated with surgery, principally if you’ve had several repeated infections.
- Hearing Aids: If you’ve had damage in your inner ear, a hearing aid can benefit you.
- Cochlear Implants: For severe cases of hearing loss, you may find limited benefit from conventional hearing aids, in this case, your doctor may opt for cochlear implants instead.
The ability to hear is one of our most important senses as human beings. This is why it is essential to take care of our hearing and protect it from high volume sounds and noisy situations on a day-to-day basis. Use protective measures to prevent hearing loss and reap the benefits of healthy hearing!