Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s easy to understand that you should never dismiss a warning like that. A warning like that (specifically if written in large, red letters) might even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s more challenging for people to pay attention to warnings concerning their hearing in the same way.
Recent studies have found that millions of people ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global problem, though these studies were exclusively conducted in the United Kingdom). Knowledge is a big part of the problem. To be afraid of sharks is rather instinctive. But most individuals don’t have an overt fear of loud noises. And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?
Loud And Dangerous Sound is Everywhere Around us
It isn’t only the rock concerts or the machine shop floors that are dangerous to your ears (although both of those venues are, without a doubt, hazardous to your hearing). Many common sounds are potentially hazardous. That’s because it isn’t only the volume of a sound that is dangerous; it’s also the duration. Your hearing can be damaged with even low level noises like dense city traffic if you experience it for more than two hours at a time.
keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would find in normal conversation. You should be just fine around this level for an indefinite time period.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and lawn equipment are at this volume. After around two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a practical example of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be dangerous at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: This is the level of noise you might encounter at a mid-size sporting event or an approaching subway train (depending on the city, of course). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be dangerous at this sound level.
- 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up to max? On most smartphones, that’s right around this volume. This amount of exposure will become dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or extremely large sports events) can produce immediate damage and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
In general, you’re in the danger zone when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or higher. The issue is that it isn’t always apparent just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound isn’t so tangible.
And hearing cautions commonly get neglected because of this particularly when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. There are a couple of potential solutions to this:
- Download an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to directly protect your ears. But there are a number of free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Damage to your ears can occur without you realizing it because it’s hard to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. The answer, then, is to have this app working and monitor the sound levels around you. Utilizing this strategy will make it more instinctual to identify when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (Or, the app will merely let you know when things get too loud).
- Sufficient signage and training: This especially pertains to the workplace. Signage and training can help reinforce the real risks of hearing loss (and the benefits of hearing protection). Signage could also let you know just how noisy your workplace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is needed or suggested.
When in Doubt: Protect
Signage and apps aren’t a foolproof answer. So take the time to protect your hearing if you are in doubt. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing problems. And nowadays, it’s never been easier to damage your ears (all you have to do is turn your headphone volume up a little too loud).
If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not raise the volume past the half way. You require noise cancellation headphones if you are constantly turning up the volume to cover up background noise.
That’s the reason why it’s more essential than ever to identify when the volume becomes too loud. And to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. It isn’t hard to limit your exposure or at least wear ear protection. But you have to know when to do it.
These days that should also be easier. Particularly now that you know what to be aware of.
Think you could have hearing loss? Make an appointment.