Everyday Activities that Could Harm Your Hearing
Sound is part of daily life. We typically navigate multiple environments with varying levels of noise. From cooking in the kitchen, to commuting, work environments, and social settings; we absorb and process sound consistently. Sometimes this noise can be louder than normal which can impact hearing health.
Exposure to loud noise is actually a common cause of hearing loss, a permanent condition that 1 in 8 people have in the U.S. It is critical to be aware of the everyday activities that can harm hearing as well as ways you can reduce your risk of developing hearing loss!
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
The auditory system, the way we hear, relies on the ears and brain working together to collect and process sound information. This consists of:
- Outer Ear: the most visible part of the ear which collects sound from the environment. This sound travels down the ear canal and lands on the eardrum.
- Middle Ear: the ossicles – three connected bones – help push the soundwaves further into the inner ear.
- Inner Ear: this activates the cochlea – filled with hair cells and fluid – which help translate the soundwaves into electrical signals.
These signals then travel through auditory pathways and reach the brain where they are processed; this allows us to understand what we hear. Noise induced hearing loss is caused by absorbing loud sound which damages the hair cells in the inner ear.
There are thousands of hair cells in each ear and these cells (unlike other types), do not regenerate; this means that any damage is permanent. Intense (loud) soundwaves can cause them to lose sensitivity and/or die which produces hearing loss.
How Loud is too Loud
Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB is potentially dangerous for hearing health. There is a wide spectrum of volume that includes:
- 0dB: near total silence
- 20dB: leaves rustling
- 50dB: normal conversation
- 85dB: city traffic
- 100dB: hand drill
- 120dB: concert, plane taking off
- 140dB: fireworks
One time or consistent exposure to sound above 85dB can lead to hearing loss. The impact depends on the duration of exposure, the proximity to the source, and how often a person is exposed to loud noise. Which is to say, if a person is always absorbing noise that is 70dB for example, this can also affect hearing.
There are numerous activities that we engage in daily that produce sound near or above 85dB. Examples include:
Household appliances: there are several appliances and power tools that produce noise around and above 85dB. This includes:
- hair dryer, blender: 80-90dB
- lawn mower, vacuum: 90dB
- hand drill: 100dB
Work environments: the workplace is one of the most common ways people are exposed to loud noise. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 30 million people. are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work.
Commuting: travel is another way people absorb higher levels of noise.
- City traffic: 80-90dB
- Airplane takeoff: 120dB
- Activities: numerous activities that you may participate in are hazardous to hearing. A few examples include: attending concerts, sport arenas, gun ranges etc.
- Listening to music: The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of people ages 12-35 are exposed to unsafe noise from personal listening devices.
- Played at maximum volume, these devices (phones, speakers) can reach 100dB.
It is incredibly important to be aware of these activities and what you can do to protect your hearing!
Protect Your Hearing Health
The great news is that noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable! By implementing a few safety measures, you can significantly reduce your risk and improve your hearing health.
- Wear protective gear: such as earbuds, earmuffs, earplugs which serve as a protective barrier and reduce the amount of sound you absorb.
- Invest in noise cancelling headphones: this feature minimizes background noise, preventing you from increasing the volume in louder settings.
- Take listening breaks: by turning off any sources of noise which give our ears and brain time to rest and recover from constantly absorbing sound.
- Take a hearing test: which allows you to know what your hearing needs are and if you are navigating any degree of impairment.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, contact us today to schedule an appointment!