Volume knob set to a safe level that won't harm your hearing.

Have you ever noticed the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you’re at the ocean? It’s not exactly a sign you ignore. A warning like that (specifically if written in big, red letters) may even make you reconsider your swim altogether. But people usually don’t heed warnings about their hearing in the same way for some reason.

Current studies have found that millions of individuals neglect warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global concern, though these studies were exclusively carried out in the UK). Knowledge is a big part of the problem. It’s pretty instinctive to be scared of sharks. But being scared of loud noise? And how do you recognize how loud is too loud?

We’re Surrounded by Hazardously Loud Sounds

Your hearing isn’t just in danger at a live concert or on the floor of a machine shop (although both of those situations are, indeed, harmful to your hearing). There are potential risks with many common sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as hazardous as the volume. Your hearing can be harmed with even low level noises like dense city traffic if you’re exposed to it for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Read on to find out when sound becomes too loud:

  • 30 dB: Normal conversation would be at this volume level. At this level, there won’t be any limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
  • 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, dense traffic, and a lawnmower are at this volume. After about two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
  • 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. This amount of exposure becomes harmful in as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
  • 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sporting event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). This volume can become dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
  • 110 dB: Have you ever cranked your Spotify music up to ten? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. This level of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
  • 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or very large sports events) can bring about immediate injury and pain in your ears.

How Loud is 85 Decibels?

Broadly speaking, you should regard anything 85 dB or higher as putting your ears in danger. But it can be difficult to distinguish how loud 85 dB is and that’s the issue. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.

And hearing cautions commonly get neglected because of this particularly when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. Here are a couple of potential solutions:

  • Suitable signage and training: This especially relates to workspaces. The significant dangers of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the advantages of hearing protection). Signage could also let you know just how loud your workplace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is required or recommended.
  • Download an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to immediately safeguard your ears. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. It’s hard to assess what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be damaged without you even knowing it. The solution, then, is to have this app open and keep track of the sound levels around you. Using this approach will make it more instinctive to recognize when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (and you will also recognize immediately when things are getting too noisy).

When in Doubt: Protect

No app and no signage will ever be perfect. So make the effort to safeguard your hearing if you have any doubt. Over a long enough period of time, noise damage will almost certainly create hearing issues. And it’s easier than it ever has been to harm your ears (all you have to do is turn your earpods up a little too high).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not increase the volume past the half way. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are always cranking up the volume to cover up background sound.

That’s the reason why it’s more essential than ever to identify when loud becomes too loud. And to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. It’s not difficult to minimize your exposure or at least use ear protection. That begins with a little recognition of when you need to do it.

These days that should also be easier. That’s even more true now that you have some insight.

Schedule a hearing examination today if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss.

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