Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you go to the ocean? It’s not really a sign you ignore. A sign like that (specifically if written in huge, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. Inexplicably, though, it’s more challenging for people to pay attention to warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Current research has found that millions of individuals ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (these studies exclusively considered populations in the United Kingdom, but there’s little doubt the concern is more global than that). Part of the problem is knowledge. It’s rather intuitive to be scared of sharks. But fear of loud noise? And how do you know how loud is too loud?
Loud And Dangerous Sound is All Around us
Your ears are not just in danger at a rock concert or on the floor of a machine shop (not to downplay the hearing hazards of these situations). Many every-day sounds can be dangerous. That’s because it isn’t exclusively the volume of a sound that is dangerous; it’s also how long you’re exposed. 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.
Read on to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this volume level. You should be perfectly fine at this level for an indefinite length of time.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioner. This level of sound will usually become harmful after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a good illustration of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). This level of sound can get dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Do you ever turn the volume on your earpods up to max? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. 5 minutes will be enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Instant pain and injury can occur at or above this level (consider an arena sized sporting event or rock concert).
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally speaking, you should regard anything 85 dB or higher as putting your hearing at risk. The issue is that it’s not always apparent just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound isn’t so tangible.
And hearing cautions frequently get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is particularly true. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Sufficient signage and training: This refers to the workplace, in particular. The real risks of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the advantages of hearing protection). Signage could also inform you just how noisy your workplace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is required or suggested.
- Get an app: Your ears can’t be directly safeguarded with an app. But there are a number of free apps that can work as sound level monitors. Damage to your hearing can happen without you realizing it because it’s difficult to know just how loud 85 dB feels. Using this app to monitor sound levels, then, is the solution. This will help you develop a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (and you will also discern immediately when things are getting too noisy).
When in Doubt: Protect
No signage or app will ever be 100%. So if you’re in doubt, take the time to protect your hearing. Noise damage, over a long enough time period, can bring about hearing loss. And it’s easier than it ever has been to injure your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your music too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, especially if you’re listening all day. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background sound you should find different headphones that can block out noise.
That’s the reason why it’s more important than ever to acknowledge when the volume becomes too loud. And to do that, you need to increase your own awareness and knowledge level. Safeguarding your ears, using ear protection, or reducing your exposure, is easy enough. But you have to know when to do it.
These days that should also be easier. That’s even more relevant now that you have some insight.
Schedule a hearing test today if you think you might have hearing loss.