Samantha Brammer // DN File
Too much noise can cause permanent hearing damage, professor says
Summer can be noisy. Days outdoors are filled with lawn mowers, concerts and fireworks – everyday activities that have the potential to damage a person's hearing.
Hearing loss is a major public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages with about 20 percent of Americans reporting some degree of it.
Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear and it can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
Experts like Lynn M. Bielski, an assistant professor of audiology at Ball State, say hearing is one of the senses we often take for granted.
So how loud is too loud?
Bielski said soft voices might include a whisper or leaves rustling. Normal conversation is a bit above. Very loud sounds include shows and concerts, especially for those are close to speakers. Even louder, potentially dangerous noises are like airplanes taking off.
"A single exposure to a very loud, intense sound can cause permanent hearing loss," the licensed audiologist and clinical supervisor for Doctor of Audiology students in the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department said. "Some examples of these types of sounds include fireworks or gunfire. These types of noises can cause immediate damage to the structures of the inner ear."
Consistent exposure to loud noises over time can also damage hearing.
"People should take care of their hearing because right now hearing loss due to noise exposure is not reversible," Bielski said.
Tips to help protect your hearing:
- Turn down the music/dial – Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), so the higher the number, the louder the noise. Levels above 105dB can damage your hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes each week.
- Use protection – Use ear protectors like earplugs or earmuffs during loud events like concerts. They can reduce average sound levels by between 15 and 35 decibels.
- Use the 60:60 rule – Listen to music at 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
- Download the app – Applications like SoundMeter+ can be used to provide accurate sounds levels and noise exposure readings to help prevent hearing loss.