Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the United States, and it can affect people of all ages. Every day, we experience noises and sounds in our environment at varying levels. Most sounds are at safe, normal levels. But some sounds are just too loud for our ears, even if the noise exposure is brief. Since hearing loss is a serious condition, we must understand the facts about noise exposure and how to protect our hearing health.
How does Noise Exposure Lead to Hearing Loss?
We are born with approximately 16,000 hair cells. These hair cells are located in the inner ear, where they are responsible for transforming vibrations from noise into electrical signals for our brain to interpret. But when they are damaged, for example from noise exposure, this function is weakened, leading to hearing loss.
We are unable to heal or create new hair cells, so hearing loss due to noise exposure is permanent. It requires hearing aids or cochlear implants to improve or restore hearing.
Levels of Noise Exposure
Sound is measured in decibels (dBA). 75 decibels and below is considered safe, even for extended periods of time. Any louder, and damage is possible. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at 85 dBA can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less noise exposure is needed to cause damage.
Here are some examples of noise exposure levels:
- Light Traffic: 50 dBA
- Shower: 70 dBA
- Lawn Mower: 90 dBA
- Handheld Drill: 100 dBA
- Sporting Event: 105 dBA
- Firecracker: 145 dBA
- Shotgun: 160 dBA
As you can see, many common activities, from chores to celebrations to popular hobbies, expose us to unsafe sounds.
Children and Noise Exposure
We often think of the elderly when we think of hearing health, but protecting the hearing health of our children is especially important. Damage due to noise exposure is permanent and accumulates over time. Many of the activities we regularly expose our children to are unsafe.
Movie theaters, sporting events, workout classes, even birthday parties or family celebrations can easily reach unsafe noise levels. Additionally, many children and teens frequently use headphones for listening to music, watching shows, or playing video games, leading to sustained and damaging noise exposure.
Much of the risk and damage to our hearing health from noise exposure is preventable. Listening to movies and music at safe levels, using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, and limiting exposure to loud noises can all help protect you from hearing loss. If you have children, you are responsible for protecting their hearing health as well.
If you believe you have hearing loss due to noise exposure or are otherwise concerned about your hearing health, you should visit a hearing healthcare professional. Here at Audiology Island, we use the latest diagnostics, rehabilitative methods, technology, and education to address all your hearing healthcare needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!