You ever go to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” signs? It’s not exactly a warning you disregard. A sign like that (particularly if written in big, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s harder for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Recent research has found that millions of people ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global problem, though these studies were exclusively carried out in the UK). Knowledge is a big part of the issue. Fear of sharks is fairly intuitive. But fear of loud noise? And how do you know how loud is too loud?
Loud And Hazardous Sound is Everywhere Around us
Your hearing isn’t just in danger at a live concert or on the floor of a machine shop (not to downplay the hearing risks of these scenarios). There are potential dangers with many every-day sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as harmful as the volume. Even low-level noises, including dense city traffic, can be harmful to your hearing if you are exposed for more than a couple of hours.
keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this volume level. You should be just fine at this volume for an indefinite time period.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, a lawnmower, or an air conditioner. This volume will usually become damaging after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a practical example of this sound level. This level of exposure gets harmful in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
- 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this volume (depending on the city, of course). This level of sound can become dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to ten? That’s usually around this volume on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be dangerous at this level.
- 120 dB and over: Any sound over 120 dB (think loud rock show or extremely large sporting events) can result in instant damage and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally speaking, you’re in the danger zone when you’re experiencing any sound 85 dB or louder. But it can be hard to distinguish how loud 85 dB is and that’s the issue. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.
And hearing warnings commonly go ignored because of this when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of potential solutions:
- Adequate training and signage: This particularly relates to the workplace. Signage and training can help reinforce the real risks of hearing loss (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). Also, just how noisy your workspace is, can be made clear by signage. Training can help employees know when hearing protection is needed or suggested.
- Get an app: Your ears can’t be immediately protected with an app. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Damage to your hearing can happen without you realizing it because it’s hard to know just how loud 85 dB feels. The answer, then, is to have this app open and monitor the noise levels around you. Using this strategy will make it more instinctive to identify when you are going into the “danger zone”. (and you will also recognize right away when things are getting too noisy).
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
Signage and apps aren’t a foolproof answer. So take the time to safeguard your hearing if you have any doubt. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And it’s easier than it ever has been to injure your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past mid way, especially if you’re listening all day. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background noise you should find different headphones that can block out noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s essential to acknowledge it. Increasing your own understanding and awareness is the key if you want to do that. It’s not difficult to limit your exposure or at least wear ear protection. But you have to recognize when to do it.
That should be easier today, too. Particularly now that you understand what to look for.
Think you could have hearing loss? Make an appointment.