Have you ever gone to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” warnings? It’s not really a sign you disregard. A warning like that (especially if written in big, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. But people usually don’t heed warnings about their hearing in the same way for some reason.
Recent research has found that millions of individuals neglect warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global concern, though this research was specifically conducted in the UK). Part of the problem is knowledge. To be afraid of sharks is fairly intuitive. But the majority of people don’t have an overt fear of loud noises. And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?
Loud And Hazardous Sound is Everywhere Around us
Your hearing isn’t just in peril at a rock concert or construction site (although both of those situations are, without a doubt, hazardous to your hearing). There are potential risks with many every-day sounds. That’s because exposure time is as hazardous as the volume. Your hearing can be injured with even low level sounds like dense city traffic if you experience it for more than two hours at a time.
Read on to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this sound level. You should be perfectly fine around this level for an indefinite time period.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the sound level of heavy traffic, a lawnmower, or an air conditioning unit. After about two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a practical example of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 100 dB: This is the level of sound you might encounter at a mid-size sporting event or an oncoming subway train (of course, this depends on the city). This level of sound can get dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to ten? That’s usually around this volume on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can occur at or above this volume (think about an arena sized sports event or rock concert).
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally, you should look at anything 85 dB or louder as putting your hearing in danger. The problem is that it’s not always clear just how loud 85 dB is. It’s not tangible the way that a shark is tangible.
And hearing warnings commonly get neglected for this reason specifically when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Suitable training and signage: This refers to workspaces, in particular. Training and signage can help reinforce the real dangers of hearing loss (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). Signage could also make it clear just how noisy your workplace is. Helping employees recognize when hearing protection is recommended or necessary with proper training can be very useful.
- Download an app: Your ears can’t be directly protected with an app. But there are several free apps that can work as sound level monitors. It’s difficult to assess what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be damaged without you even realizing it. Using this app to keep track of sound levels, then, is the solution. This will help you establish a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (Or, the app will merely alert you to when things get too noisy).
When in Doubt: Protect
No app and no signage will ever be 100%. So take the time to safeguard your ears if you are in doubt. Over a long enough period of time, noise damage will almost certainly create hearing issues. And these days, it’s never been easier to harm your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your music too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past mid way, particularly if you’re listening all day. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are always turning up the volume to cover up background noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to recognize it. And to do that, you need to raise your own awareness and knowledge level. Protecting your ears, using earplugs, earmuffs, or reducing your exposure, is easy enough. But you have to recognize when to do it.
That should be easier today, too. That’s even more true now that you have some awareness.
Schedule a hearing test today if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss.