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Are Hand Dryers Hurting Your Ears?

Did you know that some hand dryers produce sounds at decibel levels that could be harmful to your hearing? Keep reading to find out how to protect your hearing health.

Many people dislike the automated hand dryers found in public washrooms. They don’t seem to dry your hands very well and they’re often uncomfortably loud. In fact, did you know they produce sounds that could potentially be harmful to your ears?

Sound levels of hand dryers
When she was just nine, Calgary student Nora Keegan (now 13) noticed that her ears hurt after using automated hand dryers in public washrooms. She was curious about whether these common appliances could have a negative effect on people’s hearing.

Over the course of four years, Nora measured the decibel levels of 44 public washroom hand dryers 20 times each. She made recordings at different heights and distances from the wall, as well as with and without hands obstructing the airflow. What she found was alarming.

While not all hand dryers are loud enough to cause hearing damage, she did find that two models consistently produced sounds at higher decibel levels than those claimed by manufacturers. Both the Dyson Airblade and the Xcelerator hand dryers produced sounds louder than 110 decibels.

Why is that concerning?
A decibel (dB) is a unit that measures sound levels. Here are the average decibel levels of sounds you may encounter every day:

  • Whispering: 15 dB
  • Conversation at a regular volume: 60 dB
  • Lawn mower: 90 dB
  • Rock concert: 120 dB

A person may develop hearing loss after being exposed to levels of 85 dB for more than eight hours. However, sounds louder than 110 dB, like those produced by high-powered hand dryers, can damage your ears in as little as 15 minutes.

Many people think that hearing loss is an age-related problem, but that’s not true. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that one-third of all hearing loss is noise-induced. Reducing exposure to loud sounds is crucial to preserving hearing health.

Other ways to dry your hands
While you should always wash your hands after using the bathroom, avoid using a Dyson Airblade or Xcelerator dryer. Using other types of hand dryers, paper towels and shaking excess water off your hands are better options that pose no risk to your hearing.

Calgary hearing aid and audiology experts

If you’re worried about your hearing, an audiologist at a Soundwave Hearing Care clinic will be happy to do a full assessment and provide you with hearing aids if necessary. If Calgary is too far for you, we have locations in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and High River as well. Call us today to make an appointment.

All the blogs are reviewed and edited by our clinic's lead audiologist, Dr. Anne Wooliams. Dr. Woolliams is an experienced audiologist specialized in pediatric audiology, auditory processing, and tinnitus/sound sensitivity therapy. She is dedicated to providing top-notch hearing care and helping her clients improve their language and communication abilities. Dr. Woolliams' expertise in literature and linguistics, combined with her passion for helping people improve their language and communication, make her an incredibly valuable asset in the field of audiology. Learn more about Dr. Woolliams.