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How Loud Noises Harm Your Ears and Causes Other Concerns

December 30, 2015

We’ve probably all been exposed to loud noises at some point in our lives: attending a concert, watching fireworks at close range, passing close to a construction site in which a jackhammer is being used, and other instances. But how do you know when the noise you’ve been exposed to is actually damaging and may require a hearing loss test? And can loud noise do more than just hurt your ears?

Measuring Noise
Noise is measured in decibels, and the higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), sounds louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. These include noises like fireworks at three feet (150 decibels), firearms or a jet engine (140 decibels), a jackhammer (130 decibels), and a jet plane taking off or a siren (120 decibels). Even everyday sounds can be at, or approach, a damaging decibel level, such as a lawn mower or snow blower (106 decibels), a hair dryer, kitchen blender, or food processor (80-90 decibels), and a vacuum cleaner or alarm clock (70 decibels).
One-time exposure to damaging noise can cause hearing loss, as can prolonged exposure to high decibel levels over time.

How to Tell When Noise Levels are Dangerous
There are a few ways to tell if the sound you’re exposed to might be causing damage to your hearing:
  • You have to raise your voice to be heard
  • You can’t hear someone three feet from you
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears (tinnitus) after exposure
  • Speech or sounds around you sound muffled or dull after exposure
Other Harmful Effects of Loud Noise
In addition to permanent hearing loss, exposure to loud noise can have other physical effects as well as hinder your ability to concentrate and understand. These include:
  • Increased fatigue and irritability, due to having to concentrate harder to listen and to hear over the noise
  • Reduced attention span and decreased productivity at work
  • Difficulty learning, especially for children in the classroom
  • Strained voice or laryngitis, due to having to speak louder to be heard
  • Tinnitus—or ringing, buzzing, or other sounds in the ear
  • Physical problems such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, upset stomach, insomnia, and even disruption of a baby’s development before birth
Prevention of Hearing Loss
The best way to avoid hearing loss is to stay away from loud noises. But sometimes this is not always possible, depending on the activity and/or your obligations. So in the event you know you’ll potentially be exposed to damaging noise, keep the following in mind:
  • Reduce the amount of time you’ll be exposed to the noise
  • Wear hearing protection, such as ear plugs or earmuffs; cotton in the ears does not provide enough protection
  • Lower the volume when you can control the amount of sound you’re exposed to (such as speakers and other listening devices)
  • Speak to managers at movie theaters, dance clubs, bars, or other entertainment centers and ask to have the noise lowered
If you know you’ve been exposed to damaging noise levels and are concerned about needing a hearing test, look to Resonance Hearing Aids for a map of hearing test providers near you. Or call us at 720-660-8960 for more information.