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Articles | Hearing Loss

Noise Pollution: Just as Dangerous as Second Hand Smoke?

Group at loud fireworks show

Do you ever think about the places you go to that are so noisy they could damage your hearing?

You may be thinking of rock concerts, sporting events, or firework shows. While these places can definitely have a negative impact on hearing health, there are other, less obvious places that can be damaging to hearing as well. You could even be at-risk for hearing damage when going to a restaurant, a movie theater, work—or even when you’re at home!

Noise-induced hearing loss is a pervasive issue that many Americans are unaware of. According to a recent article by the Huffington Post, some experts say excessive noise should be defined as a public health issue just like second-hand smoke, and demand public places take action to change this. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur after continuous exposure to loud noise like a restaurant, or a one-time impulse sound like gunfire. Loud noise has the capability to damage the hair cells in the ear, sometimes leading to hearing loss. In many cases, this damage is irreparable.

Do you ever notice a ringing in your ears after you leave a noisy place? That ringing is known as tinnitus, and it does not always go away, especially after repeated exposure. It is estimated that 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree.

So how loud is too loud? Well, sound is measured in decibels and damage can occur after exposure to noise 85 decibels or louder. It doesn’t take much to reach this limit. In fact, the average restaurant has noise that reaches around 80 decibels, and sometimes this can be much higher.

Unless you have a decibel meter handy, it can be difficult to determine if your environment is too noisy. It is important to remember to always protect your ears while doing activities around your home, such as mowing the lawn or using power tools. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to yell to be understood, you probably need to turn the volume down on any noise-making devices, move to a quieter space or wear hearing protection.

Decible Chart

If you are working in a noisy environment, it is even more crucial to wear hearing protection as the risk for hearing loss increases as the length of exposure to noise increases. This issue is typically addressed in noisy workplaces, though not always. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers implement a hearing conservation program for their employees if they are exposed to noise 85 decibels or louder for a shift longer than eight hours.

Just like being exposed to second-hand smoke, it is not always easy to control noise pollution, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family members. To make sure you are all safe, it is important to get regular hearing screenings. Schedule yours today!


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