October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, making it a good time to be extra cognizant of the noises you encounter each day, and extra vigilant about maintaining good hearing health.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by either a one-time exposure to a brief and intense sound — known as an “impulse” sound — or by exposure to loud noise over an extended period of time.
We measure the loudness of sounds in decibels (dB). Sounds 85 dB and above are considered dangerous, and exposure to them can cause noise-induced hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter time it takes to damage your hearing.
Some places are obviously loud
Most of us intuitively know when we’re in a place that’s dangerously loud. An indoor concert, for instance. Next to an airport runway. Most large sports venues. Limiting exposure and wearing hearing protection is always recommended in these obviously loud environments.
Some places are less obviously loud
Other places are less obviously loud, but can still contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. And many of these places are environments we frequent regularly.
If you live or work in a city, it’s easy to be exposed to noise louder than 85 dB. Police and ambulance sirens are a common culprit, as well as traffic.
As scientists learn more about noise-induced hearing loss, more are working with city employees and planners to create a safer hearing environment for all who work and/or live within city limits. There are even innovations being tested out, such as “quiet concrete” in Texas, USA!
Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. In fact, nearly one in five U.S. workers have been exposed to hazardous workplace noise. Careers like construction or public transit can be really hard on the ears. Even classical musicians can be exposed to decibel levels that are too high for too long.
The solution? Wear proper hearing protection, such as industrial grade ear plugs or muffs, and try to limit your exposure to loud noise outside of your workday.
Surveys from Zagat and Consumer Reports have identified excessive noise as one of the top complaints from diners. The author of an article in The Atlantic noted she recorded noise levels ranging from 80 dB in a dimly lit wine bar at dinner time to 86 dB at a food court during brunch to 90 dB at a brew pub during a Friday night happy hour!
Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to places to dine -- if you need to shout so the person across the table can hear you, you’re likely being exposed to too much noise.
Keeping the lawn pristine can come at a price! Lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, electric saws for home improvement projects, and leaf blowers can all expose you to up to 100 dB noise. Whether you’re pushing your mower or sawing wood for a new garden shed, be sure to wear hearing protection.
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, but it’s up to you to protect your hearing by limiting your exposure to loud sounds, wearing protective hearing gear, and using tools to navigate hearing safety zones and find quieter venues to live your life to the fullest.
Not sure how to measure the loudness around you? There’s an app for that. With our SoundCheck Hearing app, you can use your smartphone to check the noise levels in any environment in real time.
And if you’re concerned about your hearing health, we can help. Just call 0800 042 0000 or click here and we’ll connect you with an experienced hearing healthcare professional near you who can answer all your questions.