One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noises. Called noise-induced hearing loss, this can be caused by a wide range of sounds.
- Exposure to sound over 85 dB can cause damage within 8 hours
- Exposure to sound over 100 dB can cause damage within 15 minutes
- Exposure to sound over 120 dB can cause damage instantly
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder and more dangerous the noise. The noise chart below is helpful to gauge how loud is too loud.
- 40 dB – quiet room
- 50 dB – rainfall
- 60 dB – normal conversation
- 70 dB – heavy traffic
- 80 dB – hair dryer
- 90 dB – motorcycle
- 100 dB – pneumatic drill
- 110 dB – chainsaw
- 120 dB – jet plane taking off
- 130 dB – jackhammer
- 140 dB – firearm
- 150 dB – fireworks at three feet
Sounds that are too loud can rupture the eardrum, dislodge the bones within the middle ear and permanently damage the hairs that line the cochlea.
Avoiding loud noises is the only guaranteed way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. This can be accomplished by simply turning the volume down. Oftentimes however, the volume cannot be lowered. These situations require the use of hearing protection.
If loud sounds are present at work, proper hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs should be provided. Strict regulations are now in place requiring workplaces to provide hearing protection for anyone whose average daily noise level is above 85 dB. If these laws are not being followed, the health and safety officer or human resources representative should be consulted.
Plan ahead for noisy events. If attending an event where noise is expected, such as a live music show, the patient should pack ear protection. If a patient frequently attends these types of events, it may be in their best interest to invest in custom-made earplugs. These earplugs are molded to fit precisely in the ear, which ensures they provide the best possible protection.
When listening to music in enclosed places it is best to follow the 60/60 rule. This rule dictates that patients should listen to music at no more than 60 percent of the loudest volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.