Noise levels: from docile to dangerous

Knowing which kinds of sounds are the most damaging to your ears is the first step in learning to protect your hearing from long-term damage. In an effort to increase people’s awareness about noise-induced hearing loss, the American Academy of Audiology and its Turn it to the Left campaign released a chart detailing noise categories by decibel level. The chart includes columns ranging from “faint” to “painful and dangerous” to help illustrate the effects of loud activities. The sound of rustling leaves falls at the lowest end of the spectrum, while jackhammers mark one of the highest.

So, what sounds should you watch out for? According to the chart, the most dangerous sounds include fireworks, gun shots, car stereos playing at full volume, ambulance sirens, and, of course, jackhammers. All of these sounds measure 130 decibels or more, making it imperative that people wear hearing protection in their presence (or avoid situations with these noises altogether). But it’s not only “special occasion” noises that can damage your hearing. Many daily activities fall into the “very loud” category, which is defined by noises up to 120 decibels. Using a blender, hair dryer, lawn mower, power tool, mp3 player, or snowmobile for more than 30 minutes can permanently damage your hearing. The same goes for attending a loud concert or sporting event for an extended period of time.

To protect your hearing, always remember to wear ear muffs or ear plugs in a loud environment. This is especially important for people who work in an atmosphere with extended noise (such as a manufacturing plant or in an ambulance). For more information, contact an audiologist through your True Care Advantage hearing care plan. He or she can answer all your questions and give you detailed information about noise-induced hearing loss.

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