Exposure to excessive noise during work or leisure activities can increase a person’s risk of hearing loss and potentially worsen a pre-existing hearing problem. Continuous exposure to noises at or above 85 decibels can have a detrimental effect on your hearing. If exposure to loud noise lasts for an extended period of time, the inner ear hair cells that are responsible for our sense of hearing can be irreversibly damaged. Exposure to loud music, such as live concerts or personal music players (ipods), is particularly dangerous since the sound intensity can reach 110 – 120 dB. The traumatic effect of a sudden loud sound, such as an explosion or gunshot, can also permanently damage hearing.
Other activities that may cause hearing loss over time include: use of a personal radio/CD player/stereo at a high volume, use of firearms, operating heavy machinery, and use of power tools. Fortunately, in most of these cases noise exposure can be easily managed by turning down the volume or wearing hearing protection (e.g., earplugs or earmuffs). For noise exposure that occurs in the workplace, federal regulations govern allowable noise levels and often require employers to provide hearing protection. More information on this subject can be found at OSHA. In addition to using hearing protection, those who are regularly exposed to noise should have their hearing tested.
How loud is too loud?
A general rule of thumb is if you have to raise your voice to be heard over the noise, it is too loud. According to theNational Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noises above 85 dB can cause hearing damage.
There is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss other than preventing it in the first place. Hearing protection devices can give effective protection against noise. Modern earplugs can be custom made to fit the ear comfortably and can use filter systems to allow a person to hear conversation while also protecting his or her ears from loud noise (ideal for construction workers, hunters, and musicians).
If you are exposed to continuous noise in your leisure activities or at work, contact us for advice on the latest hearing protection methods that will best suit your needs.