A Quick Guide to Protecting Your Hearing
Exposure to very loud noise is the biggest cause of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus – hearing a noise, typically ringing, in your ear. Protecting your hearing is very important for this reason. Often people don’t realize how loud is too loud, and when it becomes damaging. Noises at work, from traffic or listening to music too loudly can all have a negative effect on your hearing. An audiologist can give you some advice on how to take care of your hearing, but here is a quick guide.
How loud is too loud?
Noise is measured in decibels, but without an example, it’s difficult to gauge how loud a sound actually is. The maximum level of prolonged sound you can listen to safely without hearing protection is 85dB. If you work in conditions of over 80dB for instance, your employer should provide you with hearing protection. Exposure to over a threshold of 85dB can become damaging over time. To understand how loud this means, here are some examples in decibels:
- 60 dB: A normal conversation
- 85 Db: A food blender
- 88 dB: Heavy traffic
- 91 dB: A pneumatic drill
- 110 Db: a live gig or concert
- 130 dB: An airplane taking off 100m away
140 dB will actually cause pain to most people. The maximum exposure to levels of 85dB without being damaging is roughly eight hours. It’s essential in your working environment, for example, to either keep noise to a minimum or wear protection. The sound intensity doubles as it gets louder by three dB. For higher sounds such as nightclubs or loud music, your hearing could be at risk after a little as 15mins.
When to know it’s too loud
If you’re trying to talk to someone around two meter away, but have to shout to be heard, then the noise is probably up to a damaging level. If you feel any discomfort at a loud concert or due to any loud noise you should immediately leave the area or put in earplugs.
How to listen to music safely
Sound affects hairs in your ears. A louder, prolonged sound causes these hairs to flatten. The longer the exposure, the less likely they will recover. Too much loud music can cause tinnitus or hearing loss because of this. If you feel you have hearing loss from exposure to loud music or sounds, seek advice from an audiologist. Here are some tips on how to prevent this from happening.
Listening with headphones
- Take a five min break every hour
- Use a volume limiter
- Don’t go over the safe volume level
- Use noise-canceling headphones to improve sound quality
- Carry reusable earplugs
- Steer clear of the speakers
- Take breaks in quieter areas
Protect your hearing at work
This should be the legal responsibility of your employer. The premises should be assessed for noise level and any employees provided with subsequent hearing protection. If you feel like you need to shout to be understood by someone only two meters away then it’s best you report this to your supervisor. If the sound reaches a potentially damaging level and nothing is done to protect your hearing you could take action and be entitled to compensation. Always speak to an audiologist if you have any doubts or concerns about your hearing.
Types of hearing protection
You only need to use hearing protection when you are in situations or locations where you are exposed to loud noises. Here are some examples of situations in which the noise levels could be too high:
- At work: construction sites, or in traffic
- Listening to music
- At concerts or nightclubs
- Motor racing
- Shooting ranges
There are different types of hearing protection suitable for these situations.
Earplugs come in a variety of kinds. For live music opt for disposable earplugs. These are the soft kind you can squash into your ear. For professionals, there are musician earplugs that have acoustic filters. For other types of fields, earplugs can be custom made such as catering earplugs and various types for athletes. Reusable earplugs are recommended if you are often exposed to loud music or sounds socially or simply require a more durable model.
Earmuffs are similar to large headphones with hard outside layer and soft cushion in the middle. Certain models are more advanced and react to different types and levels of sound. These will typically be provided if you work in a loud environment.
To learn more about protecting your hearing and the Hearing Wellness Centre call today at 519-735-4327.