Have you ever seen the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s not exactly a warning you ignore. A sign like that (particularly if written in big, red letters) may even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s difficult for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Recent research has found that millions of individuals disregard warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global challenge, though this research was exclusively conducted in the UK). Knowledge is a huge part of the issue. It’s rather intuitive to be fearful of sharks. But most individuals don’t have an overt fear of loud noises. And how do you recognize how loud is too loud?
Loud And Hazardous Sound is All Around us
It’s not just the machine shop floor or rock concert that are dangerous to your hearing (not to minimize the hearing hazards of these situations). Many common sounds are potentially dangerous. That’s because exposure time is as harmful as the volume. Even lower-level sounds, such as dense city traffic, can be damaging to your hearing when experienced for more than two hours.
keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would expect of normal conversation. You should be just fine at this level for an indefinite length of time.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and lawn equipment are at this level of sound. This volume will normally become dangerous after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: This is the amount of sound you may experience from a mid-size sporting event or an approaching subway train (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 110 dB: Have you ever cranked your Spotify music up to ten? That’s normally around this volume on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or very large sporting events) can produce instant injury and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
In general, you’re hearing is in danger when you’re experiencing any sound 85 dB or louder. The issue is that it’s not always clear just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.
And hearing warnings commonly get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Suitable training and signage: This especially refers to workspaces. Training and signage can help reinforce the real risks of hearing loss (and the benefits of protecting your hearing). Signage could also let you know just how loud your workspace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is needed or suggested.
- Get an app: Your ears can’t be immediately protected with an app. But there are a few sound level metering apps. Damage to your hearing can occur without you recognizing it because it’s hard to know just how loud 85 dB feels. Using this app to keep track of noise levels, then, is the solution. Utilizing this method will make it more instinctual to identify when you are going into the “danger zone”. (and you will also recognize right away when things are getting too loud).
When in Doubt: Protect
No signage or app will ever be perfect. 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 these days, it’s never been easier to injure your ears (all you need to do is turn your headphone volume up a little too loud).
If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not increase the volume past the half way. If you keep turning it up to hear your music over background noise you should find different headphones that have noise cancellation.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to recognize when the volume becomes too loud. And in order to do this, you need to raise your own awareness and knowledge level. Safeguarding your ears, using earplugs, earmuffs, or limiting your exposure, is pretty simple. That starts with a little knowledge of when you need to do it.
That should be easier nowadays, too. Especially now that you know what to be aware of.
Schedule a hearing test right away if you think you may have hearing loss.