April 29th, International Noise Awareness Day, is a good opportunity to raise awareness about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and also to assess the noises you are exposed to on a daily basis. How noisy is your world?

2015 Marks the 20th Anniversary of International Noise Awareness Day

International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) was founded in 1996 by the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC).  The CHC offers some helpful tips that help us understand when noise levels become a hazard.

CHC reports that, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the maximum exposure time to a noise that measures 85 decibels (dB or dBA) is eight hours.

Daily sounds in the 80-90 dB range:

Blender or food processor = 80-90 dB

Garbage disposal = 80-95 dB

Whistling tea kettle = 80 dB

Hair dryer = 60-95 dB

Heavy traffic or noisy restaurant = 85 dB

The maximum exposure time to a noise that measures at 110 dB is 1 minute and 29 seconds.

Daily sounds in the 100-110+ dB range:

Subway = 90-115 dB

Truck = 90 dB

Motorcycle = 95-110 dB

Baby crying = 110 dB

Personal stereo = 110-112 dB

Noise Fact: A three dBA increase doubles the amount of noise, and halves your recommended amount of exposure time.

Noise Tip: If you must be exposed to noise, the CHC and others recommend that you limit your exposure time to that noise, and/or wear hearing protection.

Are you being exposed to noises that can harm your hearing?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 10 million Americans have irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 to 50 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.

The NIDCD has created an interactive sound ruler to help you gauge which noises can be too loud for your ears. According NIDCD’s sound ruler, your personal stereo can reach 105 decibels (dB) at its maximum volume. This is actually a higher level of noise than you might be exposed to if you were using a power drill, which is roughly 100 dB on the same sound ruler. While most of us think to wear hearing protection when using drills and other power tools, do we think about turning down the volume of our music?

Here are a few more noise exposures on NIDCD’s list that put you in the danger zone for noise-induced hearing loss:

Music concert = 110 dB (Move away from the concert speakers and wear earplugs. Exposure for more than 1 minute can cause NIHL)

Siren noise = 120 dB (Move away from firetruck or ambulance sirens or wear hearing protection.)

Jet engine during takeoff = 120-140 dB (Hearing protection is required.)

Guns or firecrackers = 150 dB (Always wear hearing protection around these noise sources.)

More information on dangerous noise levels can be found on the NIDCD website’s “It’s a Noisy Planet” program page.

Does short-term noise exposure cause long-term hearing damage?

According to information from the Better Hearing Institute, loud noises have become so common in our culture that we don’t necessarily pay attention to them. Further, says BHI, the damaging effects of noise exposure are underestimated because the damage to our ears often takes place gradually. We don’t always take measures to protect our hearing until we notice that we’re missing out on some sounds or our ears are ringing. For more information about how to protect your ears from NIHL, BHI offers the downloadable “Your Guide to Prevention of Hearing Loss from Noise.”

Sources: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Better Hearing Institute, Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC)

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