Hearing Hazards in Everyday Life
Is your everyday life noisy? You might be surprised to learn that some aspects of your everyday life could be too noisy for your hearing health. Most people don’t realize how much of a hearing hazard everyday sounds can be. The sounds you hear on a regular basis can actually harm your hearing if you are exposed to it long term without using protective wear. Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by work related sound or other noises that you hear everyday, and you may not even realize that it is happening.
Average Decibel Ratings of Familiar Sounds
To give you an idea of how loud average familiar sounds are, refer to this list:
- The humming of a refrigerator = 45 decibels
- Normal conversation = 60 decibels
- Noise from heavy city traffic = 85 decibels
- Motorcycles = 95 decibels
- An MP3 player at maximum volume = 105 decibels
- Sirens = 120 decibels
- Firecrackers and firearms = 150 decibels
How does Noise Induced Hearing Loss Happen ?
When we hear, it is the result of a series of events that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals. The ear’s auditory nerves then carry those signals to the brain. Understanding how we hear can help us get a handle on how loud noises can damage our hearing and become hearing hazards. Here are the steps involved the the process of hearing sound:
- Sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum.
- The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear. These bones are called the malleus, incus, and stapes.
- The bones in the middle ear couple the sound vibrations from the air to fluid vibrations in the cochlea of the inner ear, which is shaped like a snail and filled with fluid. An elastic partition runs from the beginning to the end of the cochlea, splitting it into an upper and lower part. This partition is called the basilar membrane because it serves as the base, or ground floor, on which key hearing structures sit.
- Once the vibrations cause the fluid inside the cochlea to ripple, a traveling wave forms along the basilar membrane. Hair cells—sensory cells sitting on top of the basilar membrane—ride the wave.
- As the hair cells move up and down, microscopic hair-like projections (known as stereocilia) that perch on top of the hair cells bump against an overlying structure and bend. Bending causes pore-like channels, which are at the tips of the stereocilia, to open up. When that happens, chemicals rush into the cell, creating an electrical signal.
- The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain, which translates it into a sound that we recognize and understand.
Hearing Hazards in Everyday Life
Many of the problems you hear about everyday hearing loss are connected with jobs; however, there are other sources of loud noises that can be damaging your hearing without you knowing it. The more you know, the better off you are in learning when to protect your ears accordingly. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that long and repeated exposure to noise levels at 85 decibels (dB) or higher can cause hearing loss. Here are some of the everyday sounds or activities that can cause hearing loss.
- Power Tools: OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set safe noise levels in industry. People who use power tools as part of their job should be wearing protective ear plugs or headphones. Of course, this applies to people using power tools even when it isn’t work related. Power tools like a chainsaw produce about 100 dB.
- Firearms: People who use firearms are at risk of noise induced hearing loss even though the noise is short, it is extremely loud. Small firearms produce between 120 and 150 dB. Shotguns and rifles can produce sounds greater than 150 dB.
- Kids’ Toys: Baby’s and kid’s toys can be loud and often give off quick bursts of high-pitched noises such as horns. These noises can be a hearing hazard, especially if repeated often.
- Portable Media Players: Portable media players like iPods and MP3 players can cause hearing loss when the volume is raised too high and listened to at high volume repeatedly.
- Earphones / Earbuds: Whether listening to iPods or MP3 players or connected to computers or phones, earphones and earbuds should be kept at lower levels. At high volume, the noise level through these devices can reach up to 120 dB, well beyond the safe limit.
- Rush Hour: Believe it or not, the sounds of rush hour can reach 85 dB or even higher in some cities. If you have a noisy commute, you should keep your windows rolled up to mute some of the long exposure to the loud noises.
- Concerts: Even though most people do not spend a lot of time at concerts, exposure to concert level sound even for short periods of time can do permanent hearing damage because of how loud it gets. A symphony orchestra can reach 100 dB while a rock concert peaks at 150 dB.
Regular visits are not only important for hearing assessments; in addition, we can provide you with protective gear to help avoid any hearing damage from those everyday noise hazards. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced hearing health care professionals at a Hearing Aid Counselors.