When we think about harmful noise levels that could damage our hearing most people think of gun shots, jet engines, or rock concerts. However, it is not only the loudness of the sound that could cause damage but also the amount of time you are exposed to it. Most people know that a brief, very loud sound like a gunshot could cause permanent damage to your hearing, but what most people don’t realize is that a sound that isn’t as loud over a long period of time can also cause damage. For example, working with vehicle engines isn’t as loud as a gunshot but over the course of an 8 hour work day could cause damage to your hearing.
While there are devices (sound level meters) that are used by professionals for measuring sound levels, you can also download sound level apps on most smartphones or tablets that will give you a rough idea of the sound levels you are being exposed to. Without the aid of a sound measuring device, some general guidelines to help you know if sound is too loud are:
-If you ever notice a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears after being exposed to loud sounds.
-If speech sounds muffled or other sounds seem abnormally quiet after you leave a noisy area.
-If you need to shout to be heard when the other individual is only 3 feet or less away from you while in the noisy environment.
It isn’t just noise in the workplace that we need to be concerned about. Recreational activities can also be just as harmful. For example, when listening to music on your phone or in your car, the volume should never go above half the available volume. Additionally, if you are using a lawnmower or snowblower hearing protection is recommended. Or if you are in a band, musicians’ earplugs or in-ear monitors can help reduce sound levels.
There are many different types of hearing protection available to help keep you safe. Earmuffs, ear plugs, and custom noise plugs are all available with varying levels of sound reduction. Some of the custom earplugs can even be made with filters in them to maintain some ability to have conversations while still keeping harmful noise levels down.
Noise induced hearing loss often progresses slowly over many years which makes it all the more dangerous. Whether you are exposed to noise at work or recreationally, it is recommended to have a hearing test at least every 2 years to monitor any changes in your hearing which will allow you to take appropriate action.
If you have any questions regarding your hearing or would like to discuss hearing protection, one of our registered audiologists would be happy to discuss your options with you.