Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you go to the ocean? It’s not really a warning you ignore. You may even reconsider swimming at all with a sign like that (if the warning is written in big red letters that’s especially true). For some reason, though, it’s difficult for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Recent studies have found that millions of individuals disregard warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global concern, though this research was exclusively carried out in the UK). Part of the challenge is knowledge. Fear of sharks is rather intuitive. But fear of loud noise? And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Hazardously Loud Sounds
Your hearing isn’t just in danger at a live concert or on the floor of a machine shop (although both of those situations are, indeed, hazardous to your hearing). Many every-day sounds are potentially hazardous. That’s because exposure time is as hazardous as the volume. Even low-level noises, like dense city traffic, can be damaging to your ears if you are exposed for more than two hours.
keep reading to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would find in normal conversation. At this level, there won’t be any limit to how long you can safely be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioner. After around two hours this level of sound becomes damaging.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: This is the amount of noise you might encounter at a mid-size sports event or an oncoming subway train (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up as high as it will go? On most smartphones, that’s right around this level. This level of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can happen at or above this volume (consider an arena sized sports event or rock show).
What Does 85 dB Sound Like?
Generally speaking, you’re hearing is in peril when you’re experiencing any sound 85 dB or louder. The problem is that it isn’t always clear 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 neglected, particularly when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. There are a couple of possible solutions to this:
- Get an app: Your ears can’t be immediately safeguarded with an app. But there are a few sound level metering apps. It’s hard to judge what 85 dB feels like so your hearing can be damaged without you even knowing it. The solution, then, is to have this app open and track the noise levels near you. This will help you develop a sense for when you’re entering the “danger zone” (Or, the app will merely alert you to when things get too loud).
- Suitable signage and training: This particularly pertains to workspaces. The real risks of hearing loss can be reinforced by training and sufficient signage (and the advantages of hearing protection). Also, just how noisy your workplace is, can be made clear by signage. Helping employees recognize when hearing protection is recommended or required with appropriate training can be really useful.
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
Apps and signage aren’t a foolproof answer. So if you’re in doubt, take the time to protect your hearing. Noise damage, over a long enough time period, can result in hearing loss. And it’s easier than ever to injure your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your music too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, particularly if you’re listening all day. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background noise you should find different headphones that can block out noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to acknowledge it. And in order to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. It isn’t difficult to reduce your exposure or at least use ear protection. That starts with a little knowledge of when you should do it.
That should be easier these days, too. Especially now that you know what to look for.
Think you might have hearing loss? Schedule an exam.