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Hearing Hazards

Worker wearing ear protection and gloves

There are many contributing factors to hearing loss, but the items often overlooked are the auditory hazards around us all day: in our homes or at our job.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), auditory levels below 75 decibel (dB) are safe. However, prolonged exposure of sounds above 85 dB can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. This permanent health condition affects roughly 40 million adults in the US.

What are the decibel levels of everyday sounds?

A good illustration of the decibel levels of every day sounds can be found at DangerousDecibels.org. A few common noise levels we all encounter are:

  • Typical two-person conversation is between 55-65 dB
  • Washing machine is about 75 dB
  • Hair dryer (close to head) measures around 90 dB
  • Lawnmower/tractor measures between 95-105 dB
  • Children’s screams (while being held) can exceed 110 dB
  • Average concerts start at 115 dB
  • Emergency vehicle sirens are at 125 dB
  • Fireworks display are at 145 dB

When can damage occur?

Tinnitus or short-term hearing loss can develop after being exposed to a continual noise level of 95 dB for an hour. As the decibel level increases, the time in which damage can occur will decrease. That is why you may experience ringing in your ears after a firework show, or sounds appear muffled after going to a concert.

While these may be isolated situations, prolonged exposure to high sounds can cause noise-induced hearing loss.

Unusual hearing-hazard positions

Certain companies require employees to wear hearing protection at work: factory positions, farm machine operators, construction crews, and the like. If you work in an industry like this and don’t wear ear protection, you may want to consider it. Exposure to noise levels above 90 dB for more than an hour or two each day can lead to permanent damage.

Earplugs or noise canceling headphones are helpful, as are regular breaks from the noise.

To learn more about noise-induced hearing loss, and discuss any issues you may have with your hearing, contact Hearing Associates at 888.760.2032 in Northern Iowa and schedule your hearing assessment.