May is Better Hearing Month. In recognition of this month, think about the amount of noise you are exposed to. Stop what you’re doing and listen. Chances are you didn’t even realize that amount of noise going on around you.
Coupled with this, the modern world we live in is flooded with devices, exposing you to even more noise throughout your day. Everywhere you turn, you see people listening to their iPods, mp3 players and headphones that are capable of creating sounds that rival a jet engine. It is amazing what gadgets industry has designed over the past several decades as far as personal listening devices; however, what are the long-term ramifications of listening to them day after day?
How loud is loud?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) tells us that we should not be exposed to sounds louder than 85 decibels (dB) for more than 8 hours at a time. But, just how loud is 85 dB? The loudness of city traffic in Manhattan during rush hour averages about 81 dB, with horns spiking that level to above 90 dB. In the home, a hair dryer produces a noise that is 85 dB!
In general, when a device is set at 50 percent of its volume, the music loudness is around 90 dB, which is slightly louder than a lawnmower. There are some devices on the market that can reach levels of 115 dB (although the manufacturers would probably not admit to this). According to NIOSH, we should limit our exposure to 90 dB sounds to less than two hours per day. Admittedly, many people listen to their devices for longer than that each day and most likely at a louder volume than 50 percent.
So what does this mean?
The use of such devices at unsafe levels for extended periods of time can greatly increase the likelihood of acquiring permanent hearing loss. Researchers recommend that people use the 60/60 rule when using personal listening devices – 60 minutes set at 60 percent volume. Also, the use of over-the-ear earphones is safer than ones that fit in the ear. The difference between the two types of earphones can be as significant as six times the difference in volume level.
The ironic thing is that listening to your music at unsafe levels is slowly deafening you. Hearing loss can make the music you once loved, sound muffled and unclear. As a general rule of thumb, if someone else can hear music coming from your headphones, it is probably too loud.
If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a Cooper doctor about having your hearing checked.
Request an appointment with a Cooper doctor here.