Today’s world is full of loud sounds from people hustling and bustling all around us, from the roar of lawnmowers to the clamor of construction sites. Even your favourite hobbies may emit sounds big and strong: watching a live concert or the latest movie at the local theater; spending an afternoon at the shooting range; cheering on your team at a live sporting event.
Loud noise levels can damage your hearing, either temporarily or forever. In fact, 11 million Canadians have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)—the official term for permanent hearing loss caused from excessive noise.
NIHL can result from brief exposure to extremely intense sound levels, or repeated exposure to loud sounds over time. This can affect only one ear, but other times it affects both. This type of hearing loss often occurs gradually over time, making it hard to detect until the damage is already done.
Sound travels in waves. The amount of energy created by these sound waves is measured in units called decibels (dB). The lowest hearing decibel level is 0 dB, which is almost total silence, but it is the softest sound that the human ear can hear. The louder the sound, the higher the decibel number. So, just how loud is 50, 65, 75, or even 95 decibels? These benchmarks will help give you an idea
Noise measurement of common sounds:
When it comes to damaging levels of sound, the magic number is 85. Researchers have found extended or repeated noise exposure to sound levels of 85 decibels or above can cause permanent hearing loss
Three main factors influence the severity of hearing damage:
The louder the noise level, the less time it takes for the damage to take place. In fact, for every 10 decibels of noise exposure, the intensity of the sound goes up 10 times. At 85 decibels, the maximum recommended exposure time is 8 hours. But by 100 decibels, the noise exposure limit drops to 15 minutes, and at 10 decibels more (110 dB), the exposure time plummets to just one minute. Exposure to sound levels any longer than that could result in permanent hearing loss.
Loud sounds are everywhere, and the damage can be permanent. The good news? This type of hearing loss is also very preventable. There are several ways you can protect yourself from the harmful effects of high noise levels.
We’re all very familiar with units of measurement, such as inches and pounds, but decibel levels can be harder to gauge. Luckily, a variety of decibel meter apps are available for smartphones. These apps can measure the noise levels around you to help you take educated action to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.