How long is too long when it comes to loud noises ?
Every day we’re exposed to noise, whether it’s from the TV or radio, or traffic in the street. While most of these noise levels are safe, prolonged exposure at a high decibel can damage the inner ear and cause permanent hearing loss.
Permanent hearing loss occurs when the inner ear is damaged by loud noise or wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells of the cochlea. The cochlea sends sound signals to the brain and when its hairs or nerves are damaged, electrical signals aren’t transmitted the same way, causing hearing loss.Learn more
How Sound is Measured?
Sound is measured in units called decibels. Decibel levels begin at zero, which is near total silence and the softest sound the average young person can hear. By comparison, a whisper is 30 decibels and normal conversational speech is about 60 decibels. An increase of 10 decibels means that a sound is 10 times more powerful. The sound of an ambulance siren at 120 decibels is about 1 trillion times more intense than the weakest sound the average person can hear. Sounds that reach 120 decibels are painful to our ears at close distances and are dangerous to our hearing.
The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for possible hearing loss to occur. For example, firecrackers can reach 150 decibels, and will cause hearing damage much more quickly than exposure to a power lawn mower at 90 decibels.
Causes and Effects
Hearing loss from noise can be caused by exposure to constant loud sounds over a long period of time, such as noise in a woodworking shop.
Many everyday activities can put kids at risk for hearing loss caused by noise. These activities include:
• Listening to music at high volume through earbuds or headphones.
• Playing in a band or orchestra.
• Attending loud concerts.
• Being around loud noises at home for a long period of time, such as lawnmowers or leaf blowers.
• Riding snowmobiles or motorcycles.
Hearing loss caused by noise can be temporary. For some people, hearing returns to its normal levels after 16 to 48 hours after exposure to loud noises. Recent research suggests, however, that there still may be long-term, permanent damage even if it isn’t noticeable/detectable immediately.