Our world is getting louder, without a doubt, and amidst all that noise, our hearing is at risk. Unfortunately, we often become acclimated to noise pollution without recognizing the hazard it poses to our ongoing hearing health.
Noise pollution affects our hearing in the long and short term. Immediately we may notice a decreased ability to focus and concentrate around noise. Noise levels can also impact our ability to sleep and get the proper amount of rest. In the short run, excess noise exposure in our environment can cause permanent hearing damage if left unchecked. Over time, permanent hearing damage accrues into significant hearing loss meaning that noise pollution today shapes our hearing in the future.
Listen to your surroundings. Do you hear loud traffic or construction? Maybe your neighbor is using their lawn mower or there is an appliance running in your home. All of these things operate around the threshold of hazardous noise.
OSHA has set standards for dangerous noise levels on jobsites, but they are important levels for everyone who wants to protect their hearing to know and understand. At a workplace, noise levels cannot exceed 85 decibels without the provision of hearing protection. In the mid-1970s the EPA released a rough guideline for noise pollution, warning people to protect their ears if they were regularly surrounded by 75 dB of noise or greater. The 75-dB threshold is capable of causing hearing damage with continual 24-hour exposure.
At 85 dB, sound permanently damages your hearing after 8 hours of exposure. As decibel levels increase, the safe sound exposure time drops dramatically. Noise at 95 decibels limits your safe exposure to 4 hours, while at 105 dB sound does permanent damage in an hour or less. Sounds that register at 120dB and above are not safe at any exposure and may cause physical pain to the ear.
How do you know if the environment around you is too loud? Your first indication is your own ears. If it is hard to hold a conversation at normal voice levels and difficult to concentrate on tasks, there may be a noise problem involved. Often sound that is 75 dB or greater will seem irritating to our ear and make us take notice. However, more and more people are accepting these overly loud conditions as part of everyday life, unaware that it may be causing lasting damage.
Smart technology puts quick and accurate decibel reading quite literally in the palm of your hand. Multiple free smart phone apps have the ability to measure incoming noise and let you know if your sound exposure is at a hazardous level. If you think your surroundings may be too loud, spend some time measuring sound in your area with a decibel reader. Constant noise above 75 dB is a cause for concern, as is ongoing daytime noise, like construction sounds, that register at over 85 dB.
What do you do when you know your life is too loud? Noise pollution can be frustrating, so it is important to find solutions that are personal and more community-driven. For your own health, you’ll need to find ways to protect your hearing around noise. Use quality ear protection like ear muffs or ear plugs to dampen the sound level you are exposed to. At home, you can use sound dampening curtains and flooring to weaken noise coming in from outside your home.
In your community, be active about raising noise pollution awareness. If your neighborhood doesn’t have enacted quiet hours, petition your local government to better regulate excessive noise. Education is part of the equation as well. Talk to your friends and neighbors about the hazards of environmental noise to build coalitions. Discussing the issue with local school districts can help bring noise awareness into the classroom and teach children how to take care of their hearing.
People always have questions about their hearing and at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids, we’ve got answers. When it comes to connecting you with great hearing options, complete hearing exams, balance solutions and hearing aid technology our fantastic team helps you stay on top of your hearing wellness.