Do you know that majority of cases related to deafness are caused due to the damage in hair cells found in the inner ear?
The damage is caused by high level of noise. According to medical science, noise-related loss of hearing is, to large extent, irreversible. This means, if you lose hearing because of excessive noise, it can be permanent. Therefore, it is vitally important for all of us to prevent the risk of such unexpected damage. The only way to keep our hearing intact is by avoiding loud noise as much as possible.
People have a misconception that a louder sound wouldn’t be bad for hearing if it isn’t annoying. The truth is, no matter how good it is, if the sound is louder, the time of listening to it safely will be less.
Common Reasons for Hearing Problems
- Earlier, noisy occupations were the most common causes of hearing issues. Decades ago, with less stiff rules and lack of medical facilities, people working in factories used to have hearing issues. Situation is not the same these days as health and safety regulations got stricter. Now, workers use proper ear protection on construction, digging, mining and other high-impact locations.
- Today, situation is quite different with loud recreational noise turning out to be the culprit of hearing problems. Look around. You will see a lot of people wearing headphones and earbuds, listening to loud music on their iPods and MP3 players. Add those who use to regularly go to noisy clubs and music concerts.
It’s not the outside noise that’s causing hearing problems in our young generation, sweet melodious (but loud) music does.
Are Your Ears Exposed to Extraordinary Noise?
If you’re exposed to loud noise for a certain period, chances are you’ll lose some hearing. For example:
- If you’re too close to the speakers in the club, your hearing will surely get hurt if you stood there for long.
- Your hearing can also be affected by a short burst of fireworks or gunshots.
- If you spend too much time in a noisy place, some of your hearing would have lost already.
- If you listen to loud music, and feel like increasing the volume, it’s a sign of a loss of some hearing.
Keeping away from loud noise is the best and perhaps the only way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
Are You Losing Your Hearing?
Noise level is measured in decibels (dB). A louder noise represents higher decibels. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE),
- If a person hears a noise level more than 105dB for 15 minute every week, he is likely to lose hearing.
- Even lower noise levels can harm you. If you’re exposed to 80 – 90 dB for hours on regular basis, you can lose hearing permanently.
Coming to the headphones factor, it’s a good idea to compare the sound generated by headphones to some other day-to-day things. Here’s a comparison:
- Normal conversation produces 60-65dB noise level
- A busy street has a noise level between 75dB and 85dB
- Lawn mower or heavy traffic produces 85dB
- Forklift truck makes a noise up to 90dB
- The noise of a hand drill can reach up to 98dB
- A motorbike produces 100dB noise and a big action scene in the cinema hall can reach up the same noise level.
- Car horn and night club/disco produce 110dB
- Loud music coming from the headphones (attached with MP3 player) can reach 112dB
- A rock concert or ambulance siren can reach 120dB noise
So, if you’re used to listen to loud music with headphones on, you’re lucky enough not to have lost it by now. And you don’t know when you’d be hearing nothing at all.
Tips to Use Headphones for Safe Listening
Follow these guidelines to protect your ears while listening to the music.
- be careful about the volume of your music player. The volume of the headphones is too high:
- If you’re unable to hear external noise after wearing the headphones,
- If the music causes discomfort, or
- If the person sitting next to you is able to hear the music
- Noise-cancelling or retro-style headphones are good for listening to music player. Old muff-type headphones feature passive noise-cancelling and reduce the external noise. Noise-cancelling feature prevents background noise and enables you to listen to your player at a lower volume.
- When it comes to blocking out the noise from the background, in-ear headphones or earbuds are not as effective as over-ear headphones. Moreover, wearing them for too long might cause ear pain and discomfort. Remove them and take regular breaks to give your ears some rest.
- Volume is the key whether you listen to your MP3 player via headphones or stereo speakers. While using headphones, stick to 60:60 rule, which means,
- Don’t go beyond 60% of the maximum volume
- Don’t listen to your MP3 player more than 60 minutes a day
Modern-day MP3 players, even smartphones come with “smart volume” feature. So, you will be alerted when you go beyond a certain volume level.
- Avoid using headphones for taking calls, as much as possible. It might help reduce your dependency on headphones.
- While in concert, listening to live music, earplugs are helpful in reducing a sound level up to 35dB.
- Avoid using headphones inside the car. Even listening to music in a confined place, such as car, can damage your hearing. Even if you’re a regular listener, reduce the noise level while driving.
- After spending some time in a loud and noisy place, give your ears some time relax and recover. Action Hearing Loss suggests your ears need 16 hours of rest after 2 hours of time spent in 100dB sound.
How to Make Sure You’re Safe
It totally depends upon the volume of sound. Increase or decrease of few decibels can make a huge difference. Here’s a rule of the thumb.
By increasing the noise level up to 3dB,
- The sound energy will become twice as much,
- Listening time will be reduced to half of what it was earlier
You can also use some handy apps to monitor the noise level and your exposure to it. Some popular apps include:
- SoundMeter+; for both Andriod and Apple users,
- Play It Down for iPhone and iPad users