Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Volume knob set to a safe level that won't harm your hearing.

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 ignore a caution like that. A warning like that (particularly if written in huge, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s harder for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.

Current research has found that millions of people ignore warning signs regarding their hearing (these studies exclusively looked at populations in the UK, but there’s no doubt the concern is more global than that). Awareness is a big part of the problem. It’s rather intuitive to be afraid 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 All Around us

Your hearing isn’t just in danger at a live concert or on the floor of a machine shop (although both of those venues are, indeed, dangerous to your hearing). There are potential risks with many every-day sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as harmful as the volume. Your hearing can be harmed 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 becomes too loud:

  • 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this volume level. You should be perfectly fine around this level for an indefinite time period.
  • 80 – 85 dB: This is the volume of heavy traffic, lawn equipment, or an air conditioner. After around two hours this level of sound becomes harmful.
  • 90 – 95 dB: A motorcycle is a practical illustration of this sound level. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this volume.
  • 100 dB: An approaching subway train or a mid-sized sporting event are at this sound level (of course, this depends on the city). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be dangerous at this sound level.
  • 110 dB: Have you ever cranked your Spotify music up to ten? That’s usually around this sound level on most smartphones. 5 minutes will be enough to be harmful at this level.
  • 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can occur at or above this volume (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock show).

What Does 85 dB Sound Like?

In general, you should look at anything 85 dB or louder as putting your ears in danger. But it can be hard to distinguish how loud 85 dB is and that’s the difficulty. It’s not tangible the way that a shark is tangible.

And hearing cautions often get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of possible solutions:

  • Suitable training and signage: This is true of workspaces, in particular. Signage and training can help reinforce the real risks of hearing loss (and the benefits of protecting your hearing). Signage could also let you know just how noisy your workspace is. Helping employees know when hearing protection is suggested or necessary with appropriate training can be very useful.
  • Download an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to immediately protect your ears. But there are several sound level metering apps. It’s difficult to judge what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be damaged without you even realizing it. The solution, then, is to have this app working and keep track of the sound levels around you. This can help you establish a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (Or, the app will merely alert you to when things get too loud).

When in Doubt: Protect

No signage or app will ever be flawless. So make the effort to safeguard your ears if you have any doubt. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing problems. And it’s easier than ever to damage your ears (all you need to do is turn your earpods up a little too high).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not turn up the volume past the half way. If you keep turning it up to hear your music over background noise you should find different headphones that have noise cancellation.

That’s the reason why it’s more important than ever to identify when loud becomes too loud. And to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. It isn’t hard to reduce your exposure or at least wear ear protection. But you have to recognize when to do it.

These days that should also be easier. That’s even more relevant now that you have some insight.

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