January 26, 2021
Do you notice loud sounds in your surroundings on a daily basis? Our world is getting louder and the result is noise pollution that is harmful for your hearing and health. Noise pollution is environmental noise that pushes beyond safe thresholds for human hearing. It can be emitted from a singular source, or more often be a layering of different sounds.
Noise exposure takes a toll on our health if we are not careful. Loud noise provokes stress responses in the body and can be a catalyst for anxiety. When we are hearing sounds, our mind has to devote energy and resources to comprehending them. Unrelenting noise means our brain has no “down time” to rest itself. Similarly, the very cells responsible for our sense of hearing need breaks from sound in order to avoid being permanently damaged by excessive noise.
As introduced above, our hearing depends on the functioning of tiny sensory cells known as “hair cells” that line part of the inner ear. Hair cells are responsible for translating incoming sound vibrations in the air into a signal our mind can instantly interpret. Hair cells are powerful, but they have limits. Because they are very small and quite finely tuned, very loud sounds can strain them beyond their capacity.
It is important to understand that hair cells cannot repair themselves. A damaged hair cell is permanently taken out of commission and when this happens to many hair cells, the result is called noise-induced hearing loss.
How do we know when our hearing is threatened by loud sounds? Sound volume is measured in decibels (dB) which can help us understand when we may be exposing ourselves to harmful noise levels. The louder the sound, the less time we can be exposed to it without damaging our hearing. After you are around loud noises it is important to take a break in a quiet space to allow your hearing to recover from the stress of noise.
At around 75 dB sound becomes a hazard to your hearing – around the volume of a vacuum cleaner. At this level, your hearing can sustain permanent damage if there is 24 hours of continual exposure. It is important to recognize that if the environmental noise of your daily life is consistently around 75 dB you will need to protect your hearing and find ways to bring quiet space into your daily routine.
Sound exposure times shorten dramatically the louder the volume becomes. A factory floor usually projects around 85 dB of noise and damages hearing with just 8 hours of consistent exposure. A loud event like a rock concert will usually register at around 100 dB and cause permanent hearing injury in under 15 minutes. Sounds at volumes above 120 dB will cause instantaneous hearing damage.
So just how loud are your surroundings? When you recognize that you live or work around a lot of noise it will be important to determine just how much noise, on average, you are exposed to. Currently, many people take advantage of smartphone apps that can convert your phone into a convenient decibel meter. Using a tool like this, you can take readings from the typical settings you are in throughout your average day or week.
Be on the lookout for sound levels above 75 dB, and especially for levels above 85 dB. If you are employed in a workplace with a consistent volume of 85 dB or higher, note that you have the right to workplace hearing protection under law. If your day is filled with harmful noise levels, it is time to protect your hearing and reduce the stress excess noise can cause.
We are ready to connect you with effective and comfortable hearing protection fitted to your ear canal. Personal ear plugs reduce your noise exposure, preventing hearing loss and make it easier to cope with noisy surroundings. Contact us today!