The good news is that you don’t have to lose your hearing as you age. The bad news is, you will — unless you limit your exposure to high noise levels.
The most preventable cause of hearing loss is the cumulative effect of noise. The following suggestions and decibel (dB) chart will help you gauge your exposure to noise and reduce your risk of hearing loss:
- Wear ear plugs when operating noisy equipment (i.e. lawn mower, motorboat or power tools).
- Set car, home and portable stereos to below half volume. Beware of music levels in exercise classes, concerts and bars.
- Look for a product recommended for quiet operation when shopping for a fan, air conditioner or other household appliance.
- Don’t buy noisy toys. Some toy musical instruments emit dangerous sound levels, while cap guns and firecrackers, exploding near the ear, can damage hearing even if you only hear them once.
- Any noise which makes your ears ring, a condition called tinnitus, is too loud.
- Protect your ears if you hunt or shoot guns. Acoustic trauma — immediate, severe and persistent hearing loss — is directly linked to gunfire.
- If your workplace is noisy, ensure that ear protectors are provided, and wear them.
- Make sure printers, copiers and other noisy office machines aren’t grouped together.
- Wear ear plugs at rock concerts.
- Avoid places where you cannot talk comfortably with another person who is three feet away.
- Wear ear protectors for loud hobbies like snowmobiling or woodworking.
How Loud is Too Loud? Use this Decibel Chart to Gauge Noise Level Effects on your Hearing
- Normal breathing, 10 dB – Just audible
- Quiet office, refrigerator, 50 dB – Comfortable
- Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, inside a car, 70 dB – Intrusive, interferes with telephone conversation
- Average city traffic, alarm clock, 80 dB – Annoying, intrusive, interferes with conversation
- Electric razor, many industrial work places, 85 dB – Level at which hearing damage (8 hours) begins
- Subway, motorcycle, lawn mower, 90 dB – Very annoying
- Average portable music player set above half volume, 95 dB – Repeated exposure risks permanent hearing loss
- Chain saw, subway train, garbage truck, 100 dB – Damage after 15 minutes exposure
- Inboard motorboat, power saw, highly amplified rock music, pneumatic drill, 110 dB – Regular exposure of 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss
- Thunderclap (nearby), jet engine (at take off), very loud nightclub, 120 dB – Threshold of pain
- Shotgun firing, air-raid siren, 130 dB – May cause acoustic trauma
Chart Source: Canadian Hearing Society Foundation
Noise pollution is increasing, with city noise doubling every decade. However, by limiting the noise that you and your children are exposed to, you can help protect yourself, and them, from future hearing loss.