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Everyday Activities That Could Harm Your Hearing

We are exposed to all types of noise throughout the day. From alarm clocks, to listening to music, commuting, and using household appliances to cook; we absorb varying sounds at different volume levels daily. Some of these sounds and activities that you likely engage in regularly can potentially be hazardous for your hearing health. Exposure to excessive noise is a common cause of hearing loss, a medical condition that impacts over 48 million people. Nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of impaired hearing, making hearing loss the third most common condition people live with today. Being aware of the noise levels you are surrounded by and practicing safety measures can prevent you from experiencing hearing loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One time or consistent exposure to loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss occurs when sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged. These cells, there are thousands in each ear, play a major role in how soundwaves are processed. Sensory cells (located in the cochlea) receive incoming sound waves and convert them into electrical signals. These signals then get sent to the brain and are further processed and assigned meaning to, allowing us to understand what we hear.

Loud noise can desensitize and weaken sensory cells, reducing their capacity to effectively and efficiently process soundwaves. The brain then receives less auditory information and is forced to work harder in searching for and trying to hear speech as well as sound. This produces a range of symptoms and causes chronic hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells we have, sensory cells in the inner ear do not regenerate. There are also no medical interventions that can repair these hair-like cells which means the damage is permanent, causing life-long hearing loss.

How Loud is Too Loud

Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB can be dangerous for hearing. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy traffic or a hair dryer. According to experts, people can be exposed to 85dB for 8 hours a day without damaging their hearing. But if noise exceeds 85dB, exposure time needs to be drastically reduced in order to not risk hearing health.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) outlines that the exposure time to noise above 85dB should be reduced by half for every increase of 3 decibels. Their guidelines for safe listening include:

  • 85dB: 8 hours

  • 88dB: 4 hours

  • 91dB: 2 hours

  • 94dB: 30min

There are everyday activities and noises that you may be exposed to that exceed these safety limits, putting your hearing health at risk.

Everyday Activities That Can Harm Hearing

Take a moment to think about the types of noises and activities you engage in daily. There are likely many types of noises, appliances, and activities that are louder than you think. Examples of everyday activities that can harm hearing include the following:

1. Household appliances: lots of appliances and household items that are part of your daily life produce sound above 85dB. This includes:

  • vacuum cleaner, lawnmower, hairdryer: up to 90dB

  • blenders, juicers, food processors: up to100dB

  • power tools (power drills, chainsaw, etc.): up to 110dB

2. Work: According to the Hearing Health Foundation, over 22 million people are exposed to dangerous noise levels in the workplace.

3. Headphones: there are over the ear headphones and earbuds, depending on the type, that can reach up to 102dB on their highest volume setting.

4. Social activities: social engagement is another common way people are exposed to excessive noise. From being in a noisy restaurant or bar (85-90dB) to watching a game in a sports stadium or attending a concert in an arena (up to 100dB), any social activities can be hazardous for hearing health.

5. Commuting: driving in heavy traffic or commuting on trains can reach up to 90dB.

These activities can take a toll on hearing over time. It is important to practice safety measures to protect your hearing health

Tips to Protect your Hearing Health

Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable. You can practice the following safety measures to protect your hearing health:

  • Wear hearing protection (headphones, earplugs).

  • Take listening breaks throughout the day.

  • Maintain low volume settings on electronic devices.

  • Get your hearing tested regularly so you can monitor your hearing health.

Contact us today to learn more about the resources and technologies available to help you protect your hearing health and wellness.

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