How loud is too loud?

July 10, 2015

Sensitivity to noise varies from person to person, so how can you tell if you are being harmed? You may be damaging your hearing if you have the following symptoms.

How loud is too loud?
  • A noise hurts your ears.
  • You use heavy power tools for more than 30 minutes daily.
  • You're exposed to regular impact noises, such as hammering.
  • Continuous noise — from, for example, being in a crowded public place, working in an environment that includes noisy machinery or living close to a busy road — is intrusive for much of your day.
  • You experience ringing in your ears during or after noise exposure.
  • The quality of your hearing is reduced in the hours after exposure to loud noise.

Acute hearing loss causes

  • Acute hearing loss resulting from very loud noise, whether a sudden blast or exposure over several hours, sometimes clears up over the following couple of days — but sometimes it does not.
  • So an important step in protecting your hearing is to avoid sources of very loud noise that can cause damage in a short time.
  • Major culprits include industrial machinery, power tools, building sites, clubs, concerts, firework displays, close proximity to aircraft (for example, if you work at an airport), loud music and farm equipment.

When you can't avoid loud noise

Limit your exposure to the shortest time possible, wear ear protection and, if you're obliged to endure being surrounded by sound over prolonged periods, try to give your ears a rest at regular intervals — 10 minutes every hour, for example.

Who's most at risk?

  • Hearing experts are concerned about the effects of MP3s. According to experts, two-thirds of young people who regularly use personal audio devices risk early hearing loss because the volume is too high. It's not simply the fact that headphones and earbuds bring the sound close to the ear.
  • There's also the problem that during everyday use people turn up the volume to drown out background noise.People who listen to personal audio devices for more than seven hours a week have been shown to require louder minimum volumes than the rest of us in order to be able to hear.
  • Surveys have found that almost 50 per cent of young people who use MP3 players listen for over an hour a day, with 25 per cent of them listening for more than 21 hours a week.
  • And 65 per cent listen to volumes above 85 dB — a level that the World Health Organization says can damage hearing if played through earphones for more than an hour at a time.
  • Alarmingly, 85 dB represents roughly the loudness of noise you experience when the volume on your music player is turned up only a quarter of the way towards maximum.
  • When the volume is cranked up to the maximum 120 dB, an MP3 user may have less than 15 minutes before suffering some hearing damage.
  • Most users questioned were unaware that they were putting their hearing at risk.
  • In order to help preserve hearing, experts suggest buying devices with volume-limiting features, keeping the volume below 85 dB and avoiding ear buds, because they generate more direct sound into your ears and may cause greater damage if the volume is too loud.
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