October isn’t just a time for changing leaves and spooky fun. It’s also National Protect Your Hearing Month! Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects nearly 25% of Americans ages 20-69, but there are ways you can protect yourself.
What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
NIHL is hearing loss caused by exposure to noises louder than 85 decibels and can result from a single incident or long-term exposure.
The sensitive hair cells in your inner ear transmit audio signals to your brain where they’re interpreted at sounds. Loud noises cause permanent damage to hair cells, which do not regenerate.
So, how loud is too loud? Here are some common noises levels that can damage your hearing:
- Movie theaters: 74-104 dB
- Motorcycles: 80-110 dB
- Headphones and concerts: 94-110 dB
- Ambulance sirens: 110-129 dB
- Fireworks: 140-160 dB
Factors That Determine Hearing Loss
Decibel level: The louder the sound, the more dangerous it is to your hearing. Loud noises cause hearing loss more quickly than long-term exposure to softer sounds, so beware sounds like fireworks, gunfire, or cars backfiring.
Distance: Noises get louder when you stand closer to their source. Standing next to an amp or speaker at a concert will put your hearing at greater risk than if you positioned yourself at the back of the venue.
Length of exposure: Your risk of permanent hearing loss increases when you expose your ears to dangerous noise levels for long periods. Sounds at 110 dB can cause permanent damage after just two minutes of exposure.
How You Can Protect Your Hearing
There are quick and easy steps you can take to protect yourself from permanent noise-induced hearing loss.
- Move away from loud noises, if possible.
- Wear hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs.
- Turn down the volume on your headphones, TV, and radio.
- Monitor the noise levels of your daily environment
- Use decibel-tracking apps on smartphones