Hearing Protection: Knowing When Noise Levels Are Too High

by | 02/05/2023 | Hearing Health, Patient Resources, Tinnitus

Sometimes, the sounds we cherish the most can cause hearing problems in the future.

While it’s true that you should be able to fully enjoy your hearing, it’s important to take measures to maintain healthy hearing and prevent permanent damage. By doing so, you can continue to indulge in all your favorite activities, whether it’s listening to music, going hunting, or engaging in any other pursuit you love.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common hearing disorder caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds. It’s preventable, yet so many of us still suffer from it down the road. NIHL can cause a wide range of hearing issues, from mild hearing loss to tinnitus.

It can affect individuals of all ages, but it is particularly common among younger people who frequently expose themselves to loud activities, such as concerts, parties, and other events.

As these people age, the effects of NIHL may become more apparent, manifesting at different rates in different individuals depending on their past exposure to loud sounds.

Here, I want to discuss the causes of NIHL and how to prevent it. I’ll explain the different types of hearing loss, how loud noise affects your hearing, and how to protect your ears from damage.

I hope you’ll better understand the risks associated with loud noise, the consequences of not taking precautions, and how you can protect your hearing.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The level of sound required to inflict hearing damage is determined by both the frequency of the sound and the duration of exposure.

In general, the louder the sound, the shorter the duration of exposure needed to cause hearing damage.

The decibel (dB) is a measurement unit used to quantify sound intensity.

The higher the decibels, the louder the sound.

A healthy human ear can detect sounds between 0 dB and 140 dB.

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Sounds less than 85 dB are safe and won’t cause hearing damage. However, it is possible to experience a hearing loss if you are exposed to sounds at this level for an extended period of time.

Between 85 dB and 90 dB can cause hearing damage if you are exposed for more than eight hours at a time.

Between 90 dB and 100 dB can cause hearing damage if you are exposed for more than 1.5 hours at a time.

Between 100 dB and 110 dB can cause hearing damage if you are exposed for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Above 110 dB can cause hearing damage even if you are exposed for only a few minutes.

It is essential to keep in mind that sounds at lower decibel levels can also pose a risk if you are exposed to them for prolonged periods. Therefore, it is crucial to take appropriate measures, such as wearing hearing protection when exposed to any sound above 85 dB.

Children and adolescents should aim to limit their exposure to sounds over 85 decibels until their ears are fully developed to avoid any potential hearing damage.

Sudden Hearing Loss vs. Gradual Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss is when a person experiences a rapid decline in hearing over a short period of time, and it can occur at any age. The most common cause of sudden hearing loss is a viral infection or trauma to the ear or head.

It is important to note that sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency that should not be taken lightly. Waiting for it to resolve on its own is not advisable since there may be a limited window of opportunity to reverse the damage, especially in certain types of sudden hearing loss.

It is critical to seek immediate medical attention by visiting your doctor or audiologist. Please spread this vital information with your loved ones to help them act promptly in case of sudden hearing loss. Symptoms may include a sudden decrease in the ability to hear, difficulty understanding speech, dizziness, and ringing in the ears.

Gradual hearing loss is when a person experiences a gradual decline in hearing over a longer period, which can occur in adults or children. The most common cause of gradual hearing loss is age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), but it can also be caused by exposure to loud noises, ear infections, or medications.

Symptoms may include difficulty hearing in noisy environments, trouble understanding speech, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Treatment for gradual hearing loss typically involves hearing aids and other assistive listening devices.

How to Prevent NIHL

Avoid Loud Noise – The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to avoid exposure to loud noises. This can be done by using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when listening to music or attending events with loud sound levels. You should also avoid operating loud machinery or working in noisy environments without wearing proper hearing protection.

Turn It Down – When listening to audio devices through your headphones, such as an iPod or radio, keep the volume moderate. The volume is too loud if someone sitting beside you can hear what you are listening to.

Give Your Ears a Break – Take regular breaks from loud noises. If you experience occupational noise, then wear hearing protection and take frequent breaks in a quiet area.

60:60 Rule – The EU has implemented a smart volume feature on all MP3 players, iPods, and smartphones purchased within its region. This feature, known as the 60:60 rule, limits the max volume to 60% for 60 minutes. If you try to exceed the safe level, the device will either restrict the volume or alert you that you are going past the safe level.

Get Regular Hearing Tests – It’s essential to have regular hearing tests to monitor your hearing health and detect any changes. This will help you identify any early signs of NIHL so that you can take action to prevent further damage.

Treatments – If you already have NIHL, several treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. These include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and speech therapy. Surgery is also an option for some people with a severe hearing loss.

How All About Hearing Can Help You

Experience life to the fullest without letting hearing loss hold you back! All About Hearing is here to provide you with preventative hearing care measures and expert guidance from our team of highly experienced doctors of audiology. You can trust that your hearing will be cared for with the highest standards, giving you peace of mind.

Don’t wait to start protecting your hearing – it’s never too early.

Incorporating safe listening habits, carrying hearing protection, and protecting the ears of your loved ones are crucial steps in preventing hearing loss. By taking these steps, you can enjoy the sounds of life and engage in all your favorite activities for years to come.

Schedule a consultation today to assess your hearing and learn more about hearing protection and safe listening practices. Don’t miss out on life’s precious moments – contact us now to book your appointment!

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Brian Martin

Brian was born in San Angelo, Texas, and moved to Odessa at the age of 5. Brian, at a very early age, had a love of music and sound. At the age of 13 Brian started to play guitar. He graduated from Permian High School and after graduation went on tour playing music and to this day, still plays in the Midland-Odessa area. Brian has been married to his high school sweetheart, Amy, for 25 years and they have one son. His family means the world to him. Over the years Brian has opened up for acts like Jason Aldean, Spencer Davis Group, Denny Laine from Wings, and many other top name groups. As life slowed down the time came for Brian to take his passion for music and sound and apply it to Audiology. Brian loves helping people and his great grandmother’s deafness and his own challenges with hearing loss drove him to become a State Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist. Brian is a member of the International Hearing Society (IHS), and the Texas Hearing Aid Association (THAA). His care for his clients and his knowledge of the industry has lead to many people being helped in their hearing journey.

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