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

Have you ever seen the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you go to the ocean? It’s not hard to realize that you should never ignore a warning like that. A sign like that (especially if written in large, red letters) might even make you reconsider your swim altogether. But people usually don’t heed cautions about their hearing in the same way for some reason.

Current research has found that millions of people ignore warning signs when it comes to their hearing (this research exclusively looked at populations in the United Kingdom, but there’s little doubt the concern is more global than that). Part of the issue is awareness. It’s pretty intuitive to be scared of sharks. But being frightened of loud noise? And how do you recognize how loud is too loud?

Loud And Hazardous Sound is All Around us

It’s not only the rock concerts or the machine shop floors that present dangers to your hearing (although both of those venues are, indeed, harmful to your hearing). There are potential hazards with many every-day sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as hazardous as the volume. Even low-level noises, like dense city traffic, can be harmful to your ears if you are exposed for more than two hours.

keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:

  • 30 dB: This is the sound level you would expect of everyday conversation. At this level, there won’t be any limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
  • 80 – 85 dB: This is the sound level of heavy traffic, a lawnmower, or an air conditioner. This volume will normally become dangerous after two hours of exposure.
  • 90 – 95 dB: Think of how loud a motorcycle is. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this volume.
  • 100 dB: An approaching subway train or a mid-sized sporting event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). 15 minutes of exposure will be enough to be unsafe at this volume.
  • 110 dB: Do you ever turn the volume on your earpods up to max? On most smartphones, that’s about this volume. This level of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
  • 120 dB and over: Instant pain and damage can happen at or above this volume (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock concert).

What Does 85 dB Sound Like?

In general, you should regard anything 85 dB or above as putting your hearing at risk. But it can be hard to distinguish how loud 85 dB is and that’s the issue. It’s not tangible in the way that a shark is tangible.

And hearing warnings often get neglected for this reason when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is specifically true. Here are a couple of potential solutions:

  • Get an app: Your hearing can’t be directly protected with an app. But there are a number of free apps that can work as sound level monitors. It’s difficult to determine what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be damaged without you even realizing it. Utilizing this app to keep track of sound levels, then, is the solution. This can help you establish a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (Or, the app will simply alert you to when things get too loud).
  • Adequate training and signage: This especially refers to the workplace. The significant dangers of hearing loss can be reinforced by training and sufficient signage (and the benefits of hearing protection). Signage could also let you know just how loud your workplace is. Helping employees know when hearing protection is recommended or necessary with appropriate training can be really helpful.

When in Doubt: Protect

Apps and signage aren’t a foolproof solution. So when in doubt, take the time to protect your hearing. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And these days, it’s never been easier to harm your ears (all you need to do is turn your earpods up a little too loud).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not turn up the volume past the half way. You need noise blocking headphones if you are constantly turning up the volume to cover up background sound.

That’s the reason why it’s more essential than ever to acknowledge when the volume becomes too loud. And to do that, you need to increase your own recognition and knowledge level. It’s not hard to reduce your exposure or at least wear hearing protection. That begins with a little recognition of when you need to do it.

Today that should also be easier. Especially now that you know what to be aware of.

Schedule a hearing test right away if you think you may have hearing loss.

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