What’s A Safe Noise Level To Prevent Hearing Loss?
Today, noise is an ever-present companion. Yet, the safe noise level to prevent hearing loss may be lower than commonly thought. Understanding sound measurement and how noise affects hearing may cause you to take additional steps to prevent hearing damage for you and your family.
Sound is measured in decibels (dBs). The unit has a logarithmic scale, which means each incremental increase represents a substantial surge in sound intensity. For instance, you may think the difference between 50 and 60 dB is 20 per cent. However, it signifies a tenfold increase in intensity (x10). This equation is important to understand while weighing the potential risks posed by various sound levels.
Noise and hearing loss
Hearing loss occurs when the intricate hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. Hair cells transmit sound signals to the brain. Once damaged, they can’t be repaired. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can harm these cells, leading to irreversible hearing impairment. Therefore, recognizing the threshold for potential harm is crucial for preserving your hearing.
When do decibels become dangerous?
Health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), advise that a one-hour exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB can cause hearing damage. While undoubtedly true, levels well below 85 dB may also contribute to cumulative damage, including daily sounds like watching television or heavy traffic.
According to the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), prolonged exposure to noise levels above 55 dB may be loud enough to inflict permanent hearing loss. Unfortunately, this is quite easy to achieve, as the average noise levels of everyday life in an industrialized society are around 75 dB.
If something sounds loud, it’s too loud
While you likely know that concerts (100 dB) and fireworks displays (150 dB) pose an immediate risk to your hearing, you may not be taking adequate steps to reduce noise levels in your daily routine. Consider these tips:
- Use ear protection in noisy environments
- Take breaks during loud activities
- Minimize exposure to high-volume settings
A general rule of thumb is if something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and you should take steps to avoid or reduce it.
The 60/60 rule
Listening to music or watching movies using headphones or earbuds can pose a hazard to your hearing, primarily because they deliver sound directly into your ear canal. The danger lies not only in the volume but also in the duration of exposure to loud noises, which can amplify the damaging effects. To safeguard your hearing from potential noise damage, follow the 60/60 rule: limit your listening volume to no more than 60 per cent and ensure that you don’t exceed 60 minutes of continuous exposure at a time.
Book a hearing test
It’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of hearing loss, such as difficulty understanding speech, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and continually turning up the TV or music device. A regular hearing test can detect hearing loss in its earliest stages, and an audiologist can recommend ways to reduce noise exposure, including solid earplugs and musician moulds.
Hearing protection and hearing test services in Calgary
At Soundwave Hearing Care, we offer hearing tests, hearing aids and hearing protection devices for the entire family. Contact us today to request a hearing test at one of our clinics in Calgary, Lethbridge, High River or Grande .
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.