Our ears constantly detect sounds in the environment to help us make sense of our world, but some of these sounds can be damaging. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 15% of American adults aged 20 to 69 may have noise induced hearing loss. This figure grows higher with age, as older people have more cumulative exposure to damaging noise. Identifying situations that can cause noise induced hearing loss helps you manage your risk.
Understanding Decibel Levels That Can Induce Hearing Loss
Scientists measure sound in units called decibels. A typical conversation might register at 60 decibels. Louder sounds, such as operating a lawnmower, may be in the 90 decibel range. Sirens or gunshots are 150 decibels or even more.
Hearing experts say that most people needn’t worry about sounds quieter than 75 decibels. However, you should be concerned if you are routinely exposed to sounds higher than 85 decibels, particularly if exposure to the sound is prolonged.
10 Causes of Noise Induced Hearing Loss
- Video arcades. It’s fun to visit an arcade, with beeping electronic sounds registering wins and losses. However, spending time in an arcade can be hard on your ears. Arcades typically have ambient noise levels of 110 or higher. Because people tend to spend longer periods of time in video arcades, this can easily damage hearing.
- Headphones can be a great way to manage your own exposure to noise, but many people turn them too high. Listening to your MP3 player at its highest volume exposes you to sound in the 105 decibel range.
- Motorcycles or snowmobiles. Bikers and snowmobile enthusiasts must beware of noise, which can top 100 decibels.
- Operating a motorboat may make 115 decibels of noise, so limiting exposure is important.
- Gun enthusiasts know how important it is to wear earplugs. A gunshot reaches 167 decibels, easily enough to cause hearing damage.
- Sporting events. A day out at the baseball stadium is great fun, but it exposes you to crowd noise that registers at 125 decibels or higher.
- Firecrackers make sharp, loud popping noises that can damage ears even with short exposure times. A firecracker noise is a whopping 180 decibels, so wear earplugs next Fourth of July!
- Movie theaters often play films at sound levels of 94 decibels or higher. If you’re concerned about hearing loss, ask the theater staff to turn down the noise a bit.
- Playing an instrument, particularly violin or viola. Many people who play violin or viola eventually develop hearing loss. Hearing in the left ear can be particularly affected, as that ear is closest to the instrument. Practice with a mute to limit your exposure.
- Operating heavy machinery. When operating heavy machinery, particularly in the workplace, wear earplugs to protect your hearing.
If you’re worried about hearing loss, contact us today to learn more about hearing enhancement devices that will work best for you.