Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s not exactly a warning you dismiss. A warning like that (particularly if written in large, red letters) may even make you rethink your swim altogether. But people usually don’t heed warnings about their hearing in the same way for some reason.
Current research has found that millions of people ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global problem, though these studies were specifically done in the United Kingdom). Awareness is a huge part of the problem. It’s rather instinctive to be scared of sharks. But most people don’t have an overt fear of loud sounds. And how do you know how loud is too loud?
Loud And Hazardous Sound is Everywhere Around us
Your ears are not just in peril at a rock concert or on the floor of a machine shop (although both of those situations are, without a doubt, hazardous to your hearing). There are potential risks with many common sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as dangerous as the volume. Your hearing can be damaged with even low level noises like dense city traffic if you experience it for more than a couple of hours at a time.
keep reading to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this sound level. At this volume, there won’t be a limit to how long you can safely be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and lawn equipment are at this level of sound. After around two hours this level of sound becomes damaging.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. 50 minutes is enough to be dangerous at this level of sound.
- 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up to max? That’s normally around this sound level on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
- 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or extremely large sports events) can bring about instant injury and pain in your ears.
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
Generally, you’re in the danger zone when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or higher. The issue is that it isn’t always obvious just how loud 85 dB is. It’s not tangible in the way that a shark is tangible.
And hearing warnings commonly go ignored because of this when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of potential solutions:
- Adequate signage and training: This refers to the workplace, in particular. Training and signage can help reinforce the significant hazards of hearing loss (and the advantages of hearing protection). In addition, just how loud your workspace is, can be made clear by signage. Helping employees know when hearing protection is suggested or necessary with appropriate training can be very helpful.
- Get an app: Your hearing can’t be immediately safeguarded with an app. But there are a number of free apps that can work as sound level monitors. It’s hard to determine what 85 dB feels like so your hearing can be damaged without you even realizing it. The solution, then, is to have this app open and keep track of the sound levels around you. Utilizing this strategy will make it more instinctual to recognize when you are going into the “danger zone”. (Or, the app will simply tell you when things get too noisy).
When in Doubt: Protect
No signage or app will ever be flawless. So when in doubt, take the time to safeguard your hearing. Noise damage, over a long enough period of time, can lead to hearing loss. And it’s easier than it ever has been to harm your ears (all you have to do is turn your headphone volume up a little too loud).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, particularly if you’re listening all day. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background sound you need different headphones that can block out noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s essential to recognize it. And to do this, you need to increase your own awareness and knowledge level. It isn’t hard to limit your exposure or at least use ear protection. That starts with a little knowledge of when you need to do it.
Today that should also be easier. 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.