Over 50 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels regularly. Loud noise exposure is a common cause of hearing loss, one of the most pervasive health issues people live with today. Nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of impaired hearing which reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Hearing loss strains hearing and communication which has multifaceted effects including impacting relationships, social engagement, and overall health. Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable. Monitoring your daily exposure to noise and practicing safety measures can protect your hearing health.
What is the daily exposure limit?
We are constantly absorbed to varying levels of noise throughout the day. From alarm clocks, to going to work, and listening to music or podcasts; sound is a major part of everyday life. It is important to be aware of the noise levels you are exposed to so that you can better protect your hearing health. Knowing about daily exposure limits can help you navigate sounds in everyday environments without compromising your hearing health.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the recommended exposure limit is 85 decibels (dB) for 8 hours a day. If sound exceeds 85dB, exposure time needs to be significantly reduced. NIOSH recommends reducing exposure time by half for every 3 decibel increase (after 85dB):
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 30min
Exceeding these safety limits can irreparably damage hearing health. This highlights the importance of monitoring your exposure to noise which can help you adjust in ways that protect your hearing health.
How can you measure noise levels?
Monitoring your noise levels allows you to adjust your exposure time which helps you protect your hearing health. You can measure noise levels by downloading an app that identifies the decibels in your environment. There are several apps that do this including: NIOSH Sound Level Meter App (iOS), NoiSee (iOS), SLPnFFT Noise Meter (iOS), Sound Meter X (iOS), Sound Meter (Android), and SoundPrint (iOS and Android). Another useful tip is to use your health app that comes with iPhones and the Apple watch which can also measure decibels. The health app also allows you to set alerts when the noise reaches dangerous levels.
What are tips to protect hearing?
There are several safety measures you can practice to protect your hearing health. Integrating the following tips into everyday life can prevent the development of noise induced hearing loss:
- Wear hearing protection: there are various types of hearing protection that are a great way to protect your ears from loud noise. This includes headphones, earplugs, earbuds, earmuffs etc. These items provide the ears with a physical barrier that reduces the amount of loud noise you absorb. They are also small and portable, allowing you to easily access your hearing protection when moving through environments that are noisier.
- Use noise canceling headphones: headphones and earbuds are common items people use to listen to audio – music, podcasts, talk on the phone etc. While they offer convenience, they can also be a major source that exposes people to hazardous noise levels. If you use headphones or earbuds, consider investing in noise canceling headphones. Noise canceling technology is designed to minimize background noise, preventing people from needing to turn up the volume when moving through spaces that are noisier. This allows people to listen to audio safely in all environments.
- Reduce exposure: you can reduce your exposure to loud noise in numerous ways including: maintaining low volume settings on electronic devices, avoiding for noisy settings like restaurants (especially during peak hours) and opting for spaces that are quieter, taking listening breaks throughout the day, avoiding traffic and construction sites by taking alternate routes, driving with your windows rolled up to reduce environmental noise etc.
- Test hearing regularly: another useful strategy is to get your hearing tested regularly. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and what your hearing news are. Getting your hearing tested annually allows you to monitor your hearing health and intervene early if you experience any changes that need to be addressed.
Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable and practicing these strategies can significantly protect your hearing health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.