Have you ever seen the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s easy to understand that you shouldn’t ignore a caution like that. A sign like that (specifically if written in huge, red letters) might even make you reconsider your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s harder for people to pay attention to warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Current studies have found that millions of individuals neglect warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global challenge, though these studies were specifically conducted in the United Kingdom). Part of the problem is knowledge. Fear of sharks is fairly instinctive. But being scared of loud noise? And how do you know how loud is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Dangerously Loud Sounds
Your hearing isn’t just in peril at a rock concert or construction site (although both of those situations are, without a doubt, harmful to your hearing). There are potential risks with many every-day sounds. That’s because it’s not just the volume of a sound that is dangerous; it’s also how long you’re exposed. Even lower-level sounds, like dense city traffic, can be damaging to your ears if you are exposed for more than a couple of hours.
keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would find in everyday conversation. At this volume, there won’t be a limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and lawn equipment are at this volume. After around two hours this level of sound becomes harmful.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: This is the amount of noise you may experience from a mid-size sporting event or an approaching subway train (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be dangerous at this sound level.
- 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to max volume? That’s usually around this volume on most smartphones. This level of exposure will become dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can happen at or above this level (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock concert).
What Does 85 dB Sound Like?
In general, you’re in the danger zone when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or higher. The problem is that it’s not always obvious just how loud 85 dB is. It’s not tangible the way that a shark is tangible.
And that’s one of the reasons why hearing cautions commonly go ignored, specifically when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Sufficient training and signage: This refers to the workplace, in particular. The significant risks of hearing loss can be reinforced by training and sufficient signage (and the benefits of hearing protection). Signage could also make it clear just how loud your workspace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is necessary or recommended.
- Get an app: There isn’t an app that will directly protect your ears. But there are several sound level metering apps. Damage to your ears can occur without you realizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Making use of this app to monitor noise levels, then, is the solution. Utilizing this strategy will make it more instinctual to recognize when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (Or, the app will merely let you know when things get too loud).
When in Doubt: Protect
Apps and signage aren’t a foolproof answer. So when in doubt, take the time to protect your ears. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And these days, it’s never been easier to injure your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your music too loudly).
If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not increase the volume past the mid-mark. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are constantly turning up the volume to cover up background sound.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to recognize it. Raising your own knowledge and recognition is the answer if you want to do that. It’s not hard to reduce your exposure or at least use hearing protection. That begins with a little knowledge of when you should do it.
That should be easier nowadays, too. Especially now that you know what to be aware of.
Schedule a hearing examination right away if you think you might have hearing loss.