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What Volume of Sound Can Damage Your Hearing?

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High levels of volume can damage your hearing. The people who most likely to be affected are those who work in a loud environment. This may include traffic, manufacture, or construction work. Even listening to loud music could end up being damaging to your hearing, so musicians and people in the events industry could be affected. There is even hearing protection designed specifically for catering workers. A hearing instrument specialist will be able to determine whether the level of noise could cause hearing loss, or be damaging in general. Here’s an overview of how to tell what volume of sound can damage your hearing.

How is sound measured?

It can be difficult to tell how loud is too loud, and for this reason, it is necessary to follow a simple guide. By having a better understanding of what constitutes dangerous levels of volume, you’ll know when you need to use hearing protection. Noise is measure in decibels (dB) which are directly related to how human ears react to different levels and frequency of sound.

People can be different in their tolerance of sound but in general, you can get an idea. Here are some examples of common sounds measured in decibels:

  • 0dB the quietest sound a human ear can hear
  • 40dB library background noise
  • 60dB the average conversation
  • 85dB a blender
  • 88dB heavy traffic
  • 91dB a pneumatic drill
  • 97dB a fire alarm
  • 100dB a disco
  • 110dB live music
  • 13dB an airplane taking off 100m away

What volume of sound could cause hearing loss?

A qualified hearing instrument specialist will be able to advise you as to whether or not the level of sound could cause hearing loss. For most people, however, their threshold’s 85dB. Anything over this could potentially cause hearing damage over time. If you work in an environment with sounds of this level you should consult a hearing instrument specialist.

Less than 85dB shouldn’t increase any risk of hearing loss, but it’s always a good idea to get professional help if you’re constantly exposed to louder noises. At work, if the noise levels exceed 80dB it’s your employer’s responsibility to assess the situation and provide the necessary protective equipment.  

Does the length of exposure affect your hearing?

The length of time exposed to loud sounds can affect your hearing, but depending on the volume and intensity of these sounds. If you’re exposed to sounds of higher than 85dB, then you might need hearing protection depending on how long it goes on for, and how often it affects you. 

Sound density actually doubles every time the sound increases by 3dB. The louder a sound gets, the more intense, in a nutshell. When taking into account the sounds of 85dB, the safe exposure time is a minimum of eight hours. The higher this volume increases, the quicker the safe exposure time is reduced. 

To put things in perspective, if you’re exposed to at least 110dB in a night club or at a concert, even a short time, or more than 15 minutes for example, could potentially increase the risk of hearing loss. This is why musicians tend to always wear specially designed earplugs. The intensity increases more quickly at higher volume levels.

How can you tell if the volume is too high?

Of course, it’s difficult to measure sounds by decibels if you’re not an expert and out and about. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too difficult to hear to talk to someone 2 meters away or less, then the background noise is dangerously loud. You should ask a hearing instrument specialist you’re concerned about or would like further advice on any potentially harmful levels of noise.

Common situations that could involve potentially damaging volumes include listening to music loudly through headphones, live music events, shooting, riding a motorbike, or using power tools. These are all everyday activities that it’s generally recommended to use hearing protection for. If you’ve experienced a ringing in your ears or hearing loss after these types of activity then it’s a sign the volume of sound could have temporarily damaged your ears.

The higher the volume and longer you spend exposed to certain noises, the greater the risk. Look for hearing protection options such as earplugs and ear defenders. It’s important to take care of your ears to prevent potential hearing loss. Speak to a hearing instrument specialist at the Beck Hearing Aid Centre for more advice. If you would like to learn more about the Beck Hearing Aid Centre, contact us at 519-438-0492.


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