Hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors including genetics, old age and a number of medical conditions. One of the most common, which also happens to be preventable in many cases, is exposure to loud noises.
Below is a breakdown of how to protect yourself from noises that are too loud.
How Does Sound Cause Damage?
Your ears are made up of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. A soundwave is captured by the outer ear and funneled down the ear canal until it hits the eardrum. This creates a vibration that is passed through the tiny bones of the middle ear, eventually reaching the hair cells within the inner ear. These hair cells convert the sound vibration into an electric impulse, which is then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve to be processed as sound.
When sounds are too loud, they can damage these delicate hair cells within the inner ear. This is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Unlike the other hairs on your body, once damaged these hair cells cannot grow back. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 million US adults ages 20-69 have noised-induced hearing loss.
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything measuring more than 85 dB can cause damage to the inner ear. Below is a chart put together by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) that lists the decibel rating for common sounds:
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dB
- Lawnmower: 80-100 dB
- Sporting event: 94-110 dB
- Sirens from an emergency vehicle: 110-129 dB
- Fireworks: 140-160 dB
How Can You Tell if a Sound Is Too Loud?
Understanding that loud noises can harm your hearing is only half the battle; you need to be able to tell which noises are too loud.
A good rule of thumb is if you find that you need to shout in order to be heard, which can often happen when enjoying dinner out at an Old Town restaurant, your hearing is probably at risk. When listening to music through headphones, it is all too easy to set it to a volume level that is causing damage.
Decibel meters are available on your smartphone to help you determine exactly how loud your environment is. A popular one is the Sound Level Meter App, which was created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
How to Keep Your Ears Safe
The best way to keep your ears safe is to avoid exposure to loud sounds. If you cannot remove yourself from the situation, wear proper hearing protection. Disposable earplugs are available at any pharmacy and custom-made earplugs are available at our office for those who want additional protection. To learn more about protecting your hearing or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact the Hearing Zone today.