Volume knob set to a safe level that won't harm your hearing.

Have you ever gone to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” warnings? It’s easy to realize that you shouldn’t ignore a caution like that. A warning like that (especially if written in large, red letters) might even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s more challenging for people to listen to warnings about their hearing in the same way.

Recent studies have found that millions of individuals neglect warning signs regarding their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global concern, though this research was exclusively conducted in the UK). Part of the challenge is awareness. To be afraid of sharks is fairly instinctive. But fear of loud noise? And how do you recognize how loud is too loud?

We’re Surrounded by Dangerously Loud Noises

Your ears are not just in danger at a live concert or construction site (not to minimize the hearing risks of these situations). Many common sounds can be harmful. That’s because it isn’t exclusively the volume of a sound that presents a danger; it’s also the duration. Even lower-level sounds, like dense city traffic, can be dangerous to your ears when experienced for more than a couple of hours.

keep reading to find out when sound gets too loud:

  • 30 dB: This is the sound level you would find in everyday conversation. At this level, there won’t be a limit to how long you can confidently be exposed.
  • 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, heavy traffic, and a lawnmower are at this level of sound. After around two hours this level of sound becomes dangerous.
  • 90 – 95 dB: Think of how loud a motorcycle is. 50 minutes is enough to be unsafe at this level of sound.
  • 100 dB: An approaching subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (of course, this depends on the city). This volume can become dangerous after 15 minutes of exposure.
  • 110 dB: Have you ever turned your Spotify music up to ten? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. This amount of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
  • 120 dB and over: Instant pain and damage can happen at or above this volume (consider an arena sized sports event or rock show).

How Loud is 85 dB?

Generally, you’re in the danger zone when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or louder. The problem is that it’s not always clear 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 warnings frequently go ignored, when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is especially true. There are a couple of potential solutions to this:

  • Adequate training and signage: This goes for the workplace, in particular. The real dangers of hearing loss can be reinforced by training and sufficient signage (and the advantages of protecting your hearing). Signage could also make it clear just how noisy your workplace is. Training can tell employees when hearing protection is necessary or recommended.
  • Download an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to immediately protect your ears. But there are a few sound level metering apps. It’s hard to judge what 85 dB feels like so your ears can be damaged without you even knowing it. The solution, then, is to have this app working and track the noise levels near you. Utilizing this method will make it more instinctual to recognize when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (Or, the app will simply let you know when things get too noisy).

If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself

Signage and apps aren’t a foolproof answer. So take the time to safeguard your ears if you are in doubt. Over a long enough period of time, noise damage will almost definitely create hearing issues. And these days, it’s never been easier to harm your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not raise the volume past the half way. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are constantly cranking up the volume to block out background sound.

So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to recognize it. Increasing your own understanding and awareness is the key if you want to do that. It isn’t difficult to reduce your exposure or at least use ear protection. That starts with a little knowledge of when you should do it.

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

Schedule a hearing examination today if you think you may have hearing loss.

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