Exposure to loud noise is one of the most common reasons for people to have hearing loss and it is nearly 100% preventable! In our country, approximately 36 million people have hearing loss and one in three developed their hearing loss as a result of expo- sure to noise.
Noise causes hearing loss by damaging the hair cells in the inner ear. Hair cells are the sen- sory cells that covert the sounds we hear into electrical signals that travel up to the brain. Once the hair cells are damaged they cannot grow back. Much re- search is being done in the area of hair cell regeneration, but there is no fix on the horizon.
Sounds that can damage your hearing are either too loud for too long or are very loud and sudden. Noise is dan- gerous if:
- You have to shout over it to be heard
- The noise makes your ears ring
- You have decreased hearing or muffled hear- ing for several hours af- ter exposure.
You can protect your hearing by wearing earplugs or ear- muffs when you are around sounds that are more than 85dB for a long period of time (see below for a chart of dB levels), turning down the volume of potentially harmful sounds like loud music, and finally, by walking away from the loud noise or avoiding loud places altogether.
The following is a list of loudness levels for common sounds:
60dB – normal conversations or dishwashers
80dB – alarm clocks
90dB – hair dryers, blenders and lawnmowers
100dB – MP3 players at full volume 110dB – concerts, car racing and sporting events
120dB – jet planes at take off 130dB – ambulance and fire en- gine sirens
140dB – gunshots, fireworks and custom car stereos at full volume
Many patients remark that kids today are damaging their hear- ing with loud music, and that may be so, but over 30 million Americans in the workforce are exposed to potentially damaging noise on the job. Noise expo- sure is a concern for people of all ages.