May 2023 - Better Hearing and Speech Month
Revealing the Top Five Hidden Hearing Hazards
Join us on a countdown to unveil the top surprising noise sources and practical solutions for protecting your hearing.
The Countdown Begins for Better Hearing and Speech Month
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and at Lucid Hearing, our mission is to improve people's lives through better hearing. As a leading hearing healthcare provider, we're dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of protecting our hearing from the noise that surrounds us. In our modern world, we're constantly exposed to various sounds, from the hum of traffic to the buzz of our gadgets. But did you know that some of the most significant threats to our hearing come from everyday activities and appliances?
Understanding Noise Dose and Safe Noise Levels
To better understand the risks associated with these everyday activities, it's essential to grasp the concept of "noise dose" and safe noise levels. The term "noise dose" refers to the amount of noise exposure that is considered hazardous for hearing over a specific period. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sounds at or below 70 decibels (dB) are considered safe and unlikely to cause hearing damage, even after prolonged exposure. However, sounds above 85 dB can cause hearing damage over time, with the risk increasing as noise levels rise. By being aware of noise doses, we can make informed decisions to protect our hearing in various situations.
Top Five Unexpected Noise Sources Damaging Your Hearing
To mark Better Hearing and Speech Month, we've compiled a countdown of the top five unexpected sources of noise that may be damaging your hearing, based on their potential impact on hearing health and how common or prevalent these noise sources are in our daily lives. Explore these common hazards and learn practical solutions to protect and preserve your hearing health below.
Number 5: The Earbud Epidemic
Earbuds are a popular way to enjoy music on the go, but they can also be a significant source of noise-induced hearing loss. Listening to music through earbuds at high volumes can damage the delicate structures within our ears, leading to tinnitus – a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears – and potentially progressing to full-blown hearing loss if unsafe listening habits continue.
When using earbuds, typical noise levels range from 60-70 dB at moderate volume, which is considered safe, to over 100 dB at maximum volume, reaching the 100% noise dose in just 15 minutes or less. High volume listening, at 80 – 90 dB, can cause damage in as little as 8 – 30 minutes.
Solution: To protect your hearing, consider opting for over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, and keep the volume at a moderate level, no more than 60% of the maximum. Follow the 60/60 rule: no more than 60 minutes of listening at 60% volume per day. Want to learn more? Check out Corporate Audiologist Dr. Amy Bishop’s expert tips on how to prevent hearing loss if you use headphones, featured in Health Digest.
Number 4: The Roar of Transportation
Traveling by car, train, or plane exposes us to high levels of noise that, in the long run, can contribute to hearing loss symptoms. Cars generate noise levels between 70 – 85 dB when driving on a highway or at high speeds. Passenger trains can generate noise levels ranging from 75 dB to over 100 dB, while inside an airplane cabin, the noise level can be as high as 110+ dB during takeoff and landing, and even during cruise, it can remain at 80 dB or higher.
Solution: To protect our hearing during transportation, it's recommended you wear noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, especially during prolonged exposure to noise. These devices can significantly reduce external noise levels, making our journey more comfortable and safer for our ears. If you drive regularly, you can also consider soundproofing your car with insulation materials to reduce road noise, creating a more comfortable and quieter environment.
Number 3: The Workplace Woes
Exposure to high levels of noise is not limited to transportation and leisure activities. Workplaces that generate loud noises, such as construction sites, factories, and even some open-plan offices can have a significant impact on our hearing health over time. The noise levels in the workplace can vary depending on the type of job, equipment used, and the duration of exposure.
For example, normal conversation and light office work produce noise levels of around 60 – 65 dB, while heavy traffic or vacuum cleaner noise ranges from 70 – 75 dB. Busy restaurants or factories can generate noise levels of 75 – 80 dB, and louder sounds generated by tools like chainsaws or jackhammers produce 90 – 100 dB.
Solution: Advocate for workplace safety measures, including the use of ear protection like earmuffs or earplugs, and administrative controls to reduce noise exposure. By taking proactive steps to minimize noise levels at work, we can help protect our hearing and maintain our overall health and well-being.
Number 2: The Social Scene
Social gatherings, including concerts, nightclubs, and sporting events, can be a significant source of noise-induced hearing damage. Noise levels at these events can vary but are often at levels that can cause hearing damage in a short amount of time.
For instance, movie theaters can have noise levels ranging from 60 – 85 dB, while concerts or nightclubs can reach 100 – 115 dB. Sporting events typically produce noise levels of 90 – 100+ dB, and fireworks displays can reach an astonishing 140+ dB.
Solution: To protect our hearing during social gatherings, it's important to take precautions such as bringing earplugs to events and taking breaks to let our ears rest. Choosing to sit away from speakers and other noise sources whenever possible can also help reduce the risk of hearing damage. By being proactive about protecting our hearing during social events, we can ensure continued enjoyment of our favorite activities.
Number 1: Household Hidden Hazards
Everyday household activities and appliances can be hidden sources of noise pollution that contribute to hearing damage. Vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, blenders, and lawnmowers are all potential hearing health hazards.
For example, while normal conversation or dishwasher noise ranges from 50 – 60 dB – which is considered safe – vacuum cleaners and hairdryers can produce noise levels of 70 – 85 dB. Blenders or food processors generate even higher noise levels of 80 – 95 dB, and lawnmowers or power tools can reach 90 – 105 dB.
Solution: To protect our hearing while doing everyday household activities, it's important to take precautions – perhaps consider purchasing quieter appliances, maintain a safe distance from noise sources, and wear ear protection as you work on noisy chores. By being mindful of the noise levels in our homes and taking steps to minimize our exposure, we can help protect our hearing and maintain our overall health and well-being.
The Wrap-up: Be Aware, Take Precautions
As we wrap up our countdown of the top five unexpected sources of noise that may be damaging your hearing, it's clear that awareness and proactive measures are essential for protecting our hearing health. By understanding the relationship between noise doses and safe noise levels, and then implementing practical solutions, we can minimize our risk of hearing damage and ensure we continue to enjoy the sounds of life. Use Better Hearing and Speech Month as a reminder to prioritize our hearing health and do what’s necessary to protect it.
Ready to assess your own hearing health? Take Lucid Hearing’s online hearing assessment today and start your journey towards better hearing.