Have you ever gone home from a loud concert and felt you had trouble hearing for a few hours or noticed some ringing in your ear? If so, you likely experienced a temporary threshold shift – a brief reduction in hearing sensitivity resulting from loud noise exposure. Over time, noise damage can add up and these changes to your hearing sensitivity can become permanent. Thankfully, this type of damage is completely preventable!
There are two main factors that determine the damaging effect of noise:
- Loudness is measured in decibel (dB). To give a general idea, the loudness of a quiet room is about 40 dB, while the loudness of blender is 80-90dB. The scale of loudness grows quickly, so an increase of just 3dB means a doubling of the loudness.
- Exposure time is crucial in hearing protection; the damaging effects of noise build up over time, so we want to limit the duration of any exposure we have.
As a general rule, you can only be exposed to a sound of 85dB for 8 hours at a time. Once you increase to 88 dB (meaning, a doubling of loudness), your safe exposure time is cut in half. This pattern continues so that by the time you get to the loudness of a power saw (110dB), your safe exposure time is only one and a half minutes.
To prevent noise damage, always wear hearing protection when exposed to loud sounds. If you aren’t sure whether a sound is loud enough to cause damage, use the “Three Foot Rule”: If you have to raise your voice to be heard by a person three feet away from you, put on your hearing protection! Over the counter foam plugs and ear muffs work well if inserted/worn properly. Custom hearing protection is another great option and often provides more comport. To learn more about hearing protection and preventing noise induced hearing loss, contact one of our audiologist today.