The industrial and technological advancements of the last century may have driven civilization to higher levels of progress. But these developments have also made the planet a much noisier place to live in. Noise pollution is, in reality, a growing environmental threat and can be found almost everywhere.
Continued or prolonged exposures to high-intensity sound ultimately may cause acoustic ear trauma. This trauma can lead to hearing loss, ear ringing (tinnitus), and dizziness (vertigo), as well as non-auditory symptoms such as heart rate rises and blood pressure, rises.
One-third of the 30 million Americans with hearing loss have the condition at least partially due to prolonged exposure to noise. This is a shame when you consider that it is an entirely preventable cause of hearing loss.
If you have to yell to be heard by your friend standing a few feet away from you, it's too loud, and you and the person you're yelling at is putting your hearing safety at risk.
The key is the number of decibels. Some sounds that are louder than 85 decibels (dB) harm your ears. To put that in perspective, a regular conversation is about 60 dB, a personal hearing aid with earbuds can reach up to 100 dB, a nearby thunderclap is about 120 dB, and a gunshot range is 140-190 dB!
Although listening to sounds at 85 dB for a few hours is unlikely to damage you, hearing loss becomes almost immediate and permanent once the sounds exceed 120 dB.
Here are the leading causes of noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise on the job
Every year, as many as 22 million employees are exposed to potentially hazardous noise in their workplace. Unchecked levels of sound and the resultant harm to the hearing result in millions of dollars in compensation annually.
Some of the noisiest industries include:
- Education (ask an elementary school teacher about this)
- Food and beverage services
- Military and defense
Noise from leisure pursuits
Hunting, or going down to shooting range after a long day, can be a great escape. But be wary. A single gunshot's noise is equal to the sound produced by a jet engine, reaching up to 110-140 decibels - or even higher. A 0.22-caliber rifle can create about 140 decibels of noise, while pistols can go up to 175 decibels!
Most people may wear protective equipment at the shooting range, but hunters prefer to leave this equipment at home when going out into the forest. It makes sense for hunters to be vigilant and have the total capacity to listen to the wildlife around them. However, it is essential to bear in mind that one-time noise exposure at this level can lead to a permanent loss of hearing. Regular hunters are especially at risk because repeated noise exposure at this level is even more detrimental.
For musicians, doing what they love on a regular basis can easily lead to hearing loss.
Whether they are classical violinists or metal band drummers, musicians register a higher rate of hearing loss than the general public. Indeed, professional musicians have a four-fold risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and are 57 percent more likely to develop tinnitus, according to a study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
You might say that the very sensory abilities that allow musicians to excel are at stake if they don’t take steps to protect themselves.
How to protect your hearing
Unlike other causes of hearing loss, noise-caused hearing loss is preventable! You must take action now to protect your hearing against harmful levels of noise. The easiest way to do this is to use hearing protection.
There are specialized hearing protection systems based on your choice of leisure pursuit.