Exposure to excessive noise during work or leisure activities can increase a person’s risk of hearing loss and potentially worsen a pre-existing hearing problem. Continuous exposure to 85 decibels (dB) can have a detrimental effect on your hearing. Take for example, the noise of a street with constant heavy traffic. If the exposure to loud noise lasts for an extended period of time, the cells responsible for our sense of hearing will be irreversibly damaged. Doctors consider exposure to loud music, such as a rock concert or via headphones, to be particularly dangerous since the sound intensity can sometimes reach 110 – 120 dB. The traumatic effect of a sudden loud sound, like an explosion, can also permanently damage hearing.
Other activities that may cause hearing loss over time include: use of a personal radio/CD player/stereo at a high volume; use of firearms; operating heavy machinery; use of power tools. The good news is that the noise in these cases is usually easily managed by turning down the volume or by wearing hearing protection. Federal regulations govern allowable noise levels in the workplace, as well as the employer’s role in providing ear protection. More information on this subject can be found at OSHA. In addition to using ear protection, those who are regularly exposed to noise should have their hearing tested regularly.
Certain medications are toxic to the ear. If you have a hearing loss, be sure to inform your doctor of your condition before beginning any new medications. There may be instances where other medications that are not toxic to the ear can be substituted.
How loud is too loud?
A general rule of thumb is if you have to raise your voice to be heard over the music/noise, it is too loud. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, noises above 85 dB can cause hearing damage.
Since there is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, prevention is the sensible alternative. Modern devices which protect your hearing such as commercially available earplugs or custom-made earmolds with various filter systems, can give effective protection against noise.
If you are exposed to continuous noise in your leisure activities or at work, contact us for advice on the latest hearing protection methods that will benefit and best suit your needs.