Have you ever gone to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” warnings? It’s easy to understand that you shouldn’t dismiss a caution like that. A warning like that (especially if written in huge, red letters) may even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s difficult for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Recent research has found that millions of people neglect warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global concern, though this research was specifically carried out in the UK). Part of the issue is awareness. Fear of sharks is fairly instinctive. But most people don’t have an overt fear of loud sounds. And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Hazardously Loud Sounds
Your ears are not just in danger at a rock concert or construction site (not to downplay the hearing risks of these situations). There are potential risks with many common sounds. That’s because exposure time is as dangerous as the volume. Your hearing can be injured with even low level sounds like dense city traffic if you’re exposed to it for more than two hours at a time.
keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:
- 30 dB: Normal conversation would be at this volume level. At this level, there won’t be a limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
- 80 – 85 dB: This is the sound level of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioner. This volume will usually become dangerous after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a practical example of this sound level. This amount of exposure becomes hazardous in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
- 100 dB: This is the level of sound you may experience from a mid-size sports event or an oncoming subway train (of course, this depends on the city). This volume can get hazardous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to ten? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. This amount of exposure becomes dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and damage can happen at or above this level (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock show).
What Does 85 Decibels Sound Like?
In general, you should regard anything 85 dB or above as putting your hearing at risk. But it can be hard to recognize how loud 85 dB is and that’s the difficulty. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.
And that’s one of the reasons why hearing cautions often go neglected, when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Adequate training and signage: This particularly pertains to the workplace. Training and signage can help reinforce the real risks of hearing loss (and the benefits of hearing protection). Signage could also let you know just how noisy your workspace is. Helping employees know when hearing protection is suggested or required with proper training can be really useful.
- Get an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to immediately safeguard your ears. But there are several sound level metering apps. Damage to your hearing can happen without you realizing it because it’s tough to know just how loud 85 dB feels. Making use of this app to monitor sound levels, then, is the answer. This will help you develop a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (Or, the app will simply tell you when things get too loud).
When in Doubt: Protect
No signage or app will ever be perfect. So when in doubt, take the time to safeguard your hearing. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And it’s easier than it ever has been to harm your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).
If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not increase the volume past the half way. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background noise you need different headphones that can block out noise.
That’s why it’s more significant than ever to recognize when the volume becomes too loud. And to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. Safeguarding your ears, wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or limiting your exposure, is not that difficult. That begins with a little knowledge of when you should do it.
That should be easier today, too. Especially now that you understand what to look for.
Think you could have hearing loss? Make an appointment.