How Noise Can harm your Hearing
The intensity of sound is measured in decibel sound pressure level (dB SPL). A soft whisper might be no higher than 30 dB SPL while a firecracker might be as loud as 150 dB SPL. Sounds are considered harmful when they exceed 85 dB SPL.
The inner ear is home to a sea of tiny sensory cells and nerve fibres that pick up sound vibrations and turns them into electrical impulses from the brain to process.
Too many strong vibrations will damage those cells and fibres – and the more you lose, the worse your hearing will get. Broken cells and fibres cannot heal themselves so any damage will be permanent. This can take the form of Tinnitus, and/or noise-induced hearing loss.
If you have ringing in your ears or are beginning to have difficulty hearing, then you need to seek advice.
Noise at work and at home
Daily exposure to excessive noise is the primary cause of many cases of hearing loss in the working population. The degree of loss will depend on the level of noise and duration of exposure.
If your ears are not getting bombarded at work they might well be under pressure at home. Be aware that lawn care equipment, power tools and even the repeated crack of a simple hammer can put your hearing at risk.
Noise during leisure time
Like many others, you probably enjoy a good action film at your local cinema. But up to 2 ½ hours of explosions, car chases and gunfire at the staggering volume levels produced by today’s audio systems can eventually damage your hearing. So whenever those levels start to rocket put your fingers in your ears!
At pop concerts and discos, loud music is played constantly for hours on end, thereby increasing the risk of hearing damage. At most rock concerts you can expect sound levels to exceed 100 dB SPL, which is why earplugs are highly recommended.
Hunting will also be hazardous because hunters often forget to wear ear protection, just like sirens and loud whistles, the sudden sound of gunshot might easily cause immediate and lasting damage.
Think about your total sound exposure during the day.
The simplest way to start protecting your hearing is by limiting the amount of time you expose your ears to loud noise. Other methods include:
- Stay as far away from the source of noise as possible
- Walk away when sounds get too loud
Turn things down
- At home, turn down the volume on the television, radio, stereo and MP3 player
- Reduce the number of noisy appliances running at the same time
- Buy quieter products (compare dB ratings – the smaller the better)
Cover your ears
- Use ear protection whenever possible
- When you are exposed to sudden loud noises (e.g. a jackhammer), cup your hands over your ears or put a fingertip into each ear canal