Hearing Conservation

Extremely loud noises can cause permanent damage to the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea. Even moderately loud noise over a period of time can be damaging. But just how loud is loud? Studies show that prolonged exposure to sounds at, or above, 90dB can damage hearing. The chart above graphically illustrates some common noises and their respective dB levels. Protect your hearing and wear earplugs whenever your surroundings are so loud, you must raise your voice to be heard. It doesn’t matter what the source of the loud sounds is–music, machinery, conversation—or other noisy environments.

It would be wise to protect yourself from factors or elements the causes or may cause hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when tiny sensory hair cells in our inner ears are damaged by noises that are too loud and that last for too long. But how loud is too loud, and how much time is too long? The answers are related: the louder the sound, the shorter the time before damage can occur.

As we are all aware, Sound is measured in units called decibels. Decibel levels begin at zero, which is near total silence and the weakest sound our ears can hear. By comparison, a whisper is 30 decibels and a normal conversation is 60 decibels. An increase of 10 decibel means that a sound is 10 times more intense, or powerful. To your ears, it sounds twice as loud. The sound of an ambulance siren at 120 decibels is about 1 trillion times more intense than the weakest sound our ears can hear. Sounds that reach 120 decibels are painful to our ears at close distances.

Scientists believe that, depending upon the type of sound, the pure force of its vibrations at high decibel levels can cause hearing loss. Recent studies also show that exposure to sounds at harmful decibel levels triggers the formation of molecules inside the ear that damage hair cells. These destructive molecules play an important role in hearing loss in children and adults who listen to loud noise for too long.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is related both to the decibel level of a sound and to the amount of time you are exposed to it. The distance you are from the sound also matters. A sound gets louder as you move closer to the source and softer as you move away from it. If you are far away from the sound, its intensity and its potential to cause damage are much lower. In addition, the impact of noise adds up over a lifetime. If you are exposed to loud sounds on a regular basis, your risk for permanent damage adds up as you age.

In order to take precaution from Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL); It is advisable that;

  • Block the noise (wear earplugs or earmuffs).
  • Avoid the noise (walk away).
  • Turn down the sound.

These little measures can have a long way to conserve or protect from hearing loss and its severity.