When we think of dangers lurking within the home, we aren’t typically looking for dangerously loud sounds. But exposing your ears to dangerously loud noise can contribute to hearing loss.
Our world is louder than ever before. The human ear evolved over thousands of years before the advent of modern machinery. That means that electrical amplification, industrial machinery, and earbuds place a heavier burden on our ears than they were originally designed for. When you think of cautionary habits to adopt in the hopes of prolonging your good health, add avoiding daily exposure to too-loud noise to your list.
How hearing loss works
We can safely hear a wide range of noise. Certainly, we are not the most gifted listeners of the animal kingdom, but it is a marvel that we can hear both a whisper and a shout. This is due to the architecture of our ear, beginning with the wide outer shell which collects noise from the external world. From there, noise travels into our ears until it reaches the fine hair cells of the inner ear. At this juncture, noise is translated into sound information and travels via the auditory nerve to the brain’s processing centers.
As the hair cells of the inner ear age, they fall into decline. They don’t repair themselves, nor do they repopulate. Our ears can no longer collect all the noise of the external world and our experience is that we hear less. This is part of the natural aging process and we call this type of hearing loss age-related. It is a progressive condition, which is to say that it gets worse with time. Another way that these cells can fall into decline is via exposure to excessive noise.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Those delicate cells of the inner ear are sensitive and can collect quiet sounds, like a whisper or running water in the distance. They can also withstand noise up to 85 decibels, which is the unit of measurement for sound. To put that into perspective, normal conversation is about 65 decibels, while a loud rock concert might be up to 120 decibels. While their range is significant, excessive noise does cause real damage and sometimes quickly.
When the inner cells are exposed to noises over 85 decibels for long periods (the standard recommendation is no longer than eight hours), they suffer. As volume increases, the duration we can safely listen shortens. For noises over 100 decibels, we incur risk when the duration exceeds 15 minutes. Extremely loud sounds can damage our ears in an instant. An explosion at close range might exceed 180 decibels and instantaneous damage is likely to occur.
Dangerous decibels in the home
Mowing the lawn, a staple on the home chore list can expose you to 90 decibels of noise. Depending on your lot size and the time it takes to mow, you can do a lot of damage. Many people use a hairdryer regularly as part of their daily morning routine. A loud hairdryer can exceed 95 decibels. And it’s typically pointed in the direction of your ears!
Now that even the everyday viewer is investing inexpensive home theater set-ups, audio equipment can make movie-viewing borderline dangerous to your hearing health.
Earbuds and headphones are very powerful and we’re constantly connected to them. Maximum volumes can easily exceed 100 decibels.
Ways to Protect your hearing at home
- As a safety precaution, use hearing protection when you’re using tools like lawnmowers and leaf blowers. Noise-canceling headphones or custom earplugs should do the trick.
- Invest in a ‘quiet’ hairdryer. These models typically output much less sound, closer to normal conversation.
- Set your home audio system to output between 70-80 decibels. You won’t get the shelf-shaking thrill of maximum output, but your ears will thank you. Not to mention that the sound quality itself will be exponentially better.
- Monitor your volume control. As a rule, set volumes at around 50 percent of their maximum and never exceed two-thirds of maximum volume.
Schedule a hearing consultation
The immediate effects of noise-induced hearing damage can be experienced as pain in the ears or a muffled sense of sound. The long-term effects are more subtle and you should seek an expert opinion to confirm your suspicions. Schedule a hearing test with us today to find out if excessive noise has had an impact on your healthy hearing.
- Tips for Cleaning your Hearing Aids - September 25, 2022
- Understanding the Degrees of Hearing Loss - September 21, 2022
- Why You Should Schedule a Hearing Test for World Alzheimer’s Month - September 1, 2022