Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s not really a sign you dismiss. A warning like that (especially if written in huge, red letters) might even make you rethink your swim altogether. But people usually don’t pay attention to cautions about their hearing in the same way for some reason.
Recent studies have found that millions of people disregard warning signs when it comes to their hearing (these studies exclusively looked at populations in the UK, but there’s no doubt the concern is more global than that). Knowledge is a huge part of the issue. Fear of sharks is fairly intuitive. But fear of loud noise? And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?
Loud And Hazardous Sound is Everywhere Around us
Your hearing isn’t just in peril at a live concert or construction site (although both of those situations are, without a doubt, dangerous to your hearing). Many common sounds can be hazardous. That’s because the duration of sound is as dangerous as the volume. Your hearing can be injured with even low level sounds like dense city traffic if you experience it for more than two hours at a time.
Read on to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this volume level. You should be perfectly fine around this level for an indefinite length of time.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, dense traffic, and a lawnmower are at this volume. After about two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a good example of this sound level. This amount of exposure gets harmful in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
- 100 dB: This is the level of sound you might experience from a mid-size sports event or an oncoming subway train (of course, this depends on the city). This volume can become dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Do you ever turn the volume on your earpods up as high as it will go? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. 5 minutes will be enough to be harmful at this level.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can occur at or above this level (consider an arena sized sports event or rock show).
What Does 85 dB Sound Like?
Generally, you’re hearing is at risk when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or higher. The problem 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 often get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is particularly true. There are a couple of potential solutions to this:
- Adequate training and signage: This especially relates to the workplace. The significant risks of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). Signage could also let you know just how noisy your workspace is. Helping employees know when hearing protection is recommended or necessary with appropriate training can be very useful.
- Download an app: Your ears can’t be immediately safeguarded with an app. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Damage to your ears can happen without you recognizing it because it’s tough to know just how loud 85 dB feels. The answer, then, is to have this app open and monitor the noise levels near you. Using this method will make it more instinctual to distinguish when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (and you will also recognize right away when things are getting too noisy).
When in Doubt: Protect
Signage and apps aren’t a foolproof solution. So when in doubt, take the time to safeguard your ears. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost certainly create hearing problems. And it’s easier than ever to harm your ears (all you have to do is turn your headphone volume up a little too high).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past mid way, specifically if you’re listening all day. You require noise blocking headphones if you are constantly cranking up the volume to block out background sound.
That’s the reason why it’s more significant than ever to acknowledge when the volume becomes too loud. And to do this, you need to increase your own awareness and knowledge level. It’s not difficult to minimize your exposure or at least wear ear protection. That starts with a little knowledge of when you need to do it.
Nowadays that should also be easier. That’s even more true now that you have some awareness.
Schedule a hearing test right away if you think you might have hearing loss.