Listen Up: How Noise Can Harm Your Hearing


The good news is that you don’t have to lose your hearing as
you age. The bad news is, you will – unless you limit your
exposure to high noise levels. The most preventable cause of
hearing loss is the cumulative effect of noise. The following
suggestions and decibel (dB) chart will help you gauge your
exposure to noise and reduce your risk of hearing loss:

* Wear ear plugs when operating noisy equipment (i.e. lawn
mower, motorboat or power tools).
* Set car, home and portable stereos to below half volume.
Beware of music levels in exercise classes, concerts and
* Look for a product recommended for quiet operation when
shopping for a fan, air conditioner or other household
* Don’t buy noisy toys. Some toy musical instruments emit
dangerous sound levels, while cap guns and firecrackers,
exploding near the ear, can damage hearing even if you only
hear them once.
* Any noise which makes your ears ring, a condition called
tinnitus, is too loud.
* Protect your ears if you hunt or shoot guns. Acoustic
trauma – immediate, severe and persistent hearing loss – is
directly linked to gunfire.
* If your workplace is noisy, ensure that ear protectors are
provided, and wear them.
* Make sure printers, copiers and other noisy office
machines aren’t grouped together.
* Wear ear plugs at rock concerts.
* Avoid places where you cannot talk comfortably with
another person who is three feet away.
* Wear ear protectors for loud hobbies like snowmobiling or

How Loud is Too Loud? Use this Decibel Chart to Gauge Noise
Level Effects

Normal breathing, 10 dB – Just audible
Quiet office, refrigerator, 50 dB – Comfortable
Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, inside a car, 70 dB – Intrusive,
interferes with telephone conversation
Average city traffic, alarm clock, 80 dB – Annoying,
intrusive, interferes with conversation
Electric razor, many industrial work places, 85 dB – Level
at which hearing damage (8 hours) begins
Subway, motorcycle, lawn mower, 90 dB – Very annoying
Average portable cd player set above half volume, 95 dB –
Repeated exposure risks permanent hearing loss
Chain saw, subway train, garbage truck, 100 dB – Damage
after 15 minutes exposure
Inboard motorboat, power saw, highly amplified rock music,
pneumatic drill, 110 dB – Regular exposure of 1 minute risks
permanent hearing loss
Thunderclap (nearby), jet engine (at take off), very loud
nightclub, 120 dB – Threshold of pain
Shotgun firing, air-raid siren, 130 dB – May cause acoustic
Chart Source: Canadian Hearing Society Foundation

Noise pollution is increasing, with city noise doubling
every decade. However, by limiting the noise that you and
your children are exposed to, you can help protect yourself,
and them, from future hearing loss.

By Jane Lake

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