Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by one-time exposure to an extremely loud sound, like an explosion, or prolonged exposure to moderate noise. OSHA reports that any sound over 85 dB – about the volume of highway traffic – can cause permanent hearing damage after just 15 minutes of exposure.
The National Institutes for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that as many as 24 percent of Americans under the age of 70 have some level of NIHL.
What Causes Noise Induced Hearing Loss?
Your inner ear contains tiny hair cells called stereocilia that convert soundwaves to electric impulses, which are then translated by your brain as sound. Loud noises can cause these hair cells to die, and once they do, they cannot regenerate.
What Household Noises Are Dangerous?
The rule of thumb is, if a noise is loud enough that you cannot carry on a conversation comfortably, it is loud enough to damage your ears.
Unfortunately, many household appliances exceed this threshold. Below are some common household appliances and their decibel outputs:
- Dishwasher: 55-75 dB
- Vacuum cleaner: 60-85 dB
- Alarm clock: 65-80 dB
- Lawn mower: 65-95 dB
- Toiler: 75-85 dB
- Blender: 80-90 dB
- Garbage disposal: 80-95 dB
- Leaf blower: 110 dB
- Chainsaw: 120 dB
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
The best thing about noise-induced hearing loss is that it is preventable. Even if you have some level of hearing loss, it’s important to stay on top of wearing hearing protection to ensure it doesn’t get worse.
Here are some ways to keep your hearing safe at home:
- Keep the volume low. When you’re watching TV or listening to the radio, make sure to keep the volume low enough you can comfortably speak over it without shouting.
- Buy low-dB appliances. As you need to replace your appliances, look for models that boast a low decibel output.
- Use earplugs. When doing household chores or hobbies that require power tools, such as mowing the lawn, blowing leaves or using a table saw, wear custom hearing protection or purchase earplugs from the drug store.
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones. With earbuds or earphones that do not block out noise, people tend to crank up the volume to hear better over background sounds. Wearing noise-cancelling headphones can help you hear your music or podcast more clearly without the volume being too high.
For more information about custom hearing protection, call ENT of Georgia today!