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 easy to understand that you should never ignore a caution like that. You might even rethink swimming at all with a sign like that (if the sign is written in big red letters that’s especially true). For some reason, though, it’s harder for people to pay attention to warnings concerning their hearing in the same way.

Current studies have found that millions of people ignore warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s little doubt that this is a global problem, though these studies were specifically conducted in the United Kingdom). Knowledge is a big part of the issue. Fear of sharks is fairly intuitive. But most people don’t have an overt fear of loud noises. And the real question is, what’s too loud?

Loud And Dangerous Sound is Everywhere Around us

It isn’t only the machine shop floor or rock concert that present dangers to your hearing (not to downplay the hearing risks of these situations). Many common sounds can be hazardous. That’s because it isn’t only the volume of a sound that presents a danger; it’s also the duration. Your hearing can be injured with even low level sounds like dense city traffic if you’re exposed to it for more than two hours at a time.

keep reading to find out when sound gets too loud:

  • 30 dB: Everyday conversation would be at this sound level. At this volume, there won’t be any limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
  • 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and lawn equipment are at this volume. After around two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
  • 90 – 95 dB: Think of the noisiness of a motorcycle. 50 minutes is enough to be dangerous at this volume.
  • 100 dB: An approaching subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). This level of sound can become dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
  • 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up as high as it will go? On most smartphones, that’s right around this volume. This level of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
  • 120 dB and over: Anything over 120 dB (think loud rock concerts or very large sporting events) can result in instant injury and pain in your ears.

What Does 85 dB Sound Like?

In general, you should consider anything 85 dB or higher as putting your ears in danger. The problem is that it’s not always apparent just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.

And that’s one of the reasons why hearing cautions commonly go ignored, when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is especially true. There are a couple of possible solutions to this:

  • Download an app: There isn’t an app that will immediately safeguard your ears. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Injury to your hearing can occur without you realizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Utilizing this app to monitor sound levels, then, is the answer. This can help you develop a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (and you will also discern immediately when things are getting too noisy).
  • Suitable signage and training: This especially relates to workspaces. Training and signage can help reinforce the significant risks of hearing loss (and the benefits of protecting your hearing). Additionally, just how loud your workplace is, can be made clear by signage. Helping employees recognize when hearing protection is recommended or necessary with appropriate training can be very useful.

When in Doubt: Protect

No signage or app will ever be flawless. So when in doubt, take the time to protect your ears. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And it’s easier than ever to injure your ears (all you have to do is turn your headphone volume up a little too loud).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not turn up the volume past the mid-mark. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are always turning up the volume to block out background noise.

That’s why it’s more essential than ever to identify when loud becomes too loud. Raising your own understanding and awareness is the key if you want to do that. Safeguarding your ears, wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or limiting your exposure, is pretty simple. That begins with a little knowledge of when you need to do it.

These days that should also be easier. That’s even more true now that you have some insight.

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