Without a doubt, we encounter some places that are just plain loud. You’d expect a sporting event such as a football game in a stadium, or an indoor monster truck rally in a coliseum to be loud, but there are places we go every day that are loud enough to harm our hearing.
One in four Americans live with noise-induced hearing loss according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The third most common chronic health condition in US adults is hearing loss. The benefits of modern technology have given us tools to help ourselves, but for many, it’s not part of their normal routine.
Thanks to apps, we can turn a cell phone into a decibel (dB) level reader. By checking the ‘loudness’ of the environment you’re in, you can determine if you need to take measures to protect your hearing. If the sound registers a dB of 85 or higher, this is enough to result in noise-induced hearing loss. As a general rule of thumb, the louder the sound, the less time it takes to establish hearing loss.
Some of the loudest places to encounter are:
- Gun ranges
- Social events
- Transportation stations
For those who work or live in a larger, busy city you might be exposing yourself to noise levels that can be harmful. Sirens from emergency vehicles, construction equipment, airports, stadium, or event centers can all create a high decibel level and constant exposure, depending on how long you are near them.
Working as a construction worker, an airplane mechanic, a stadium attendant, or emergency response personnel can be some of the loudest occupations, and most detrimental to your hearing. People in these occupations need to take preventative measures so they don’t endanger their hearing.
Utilizing personal protective equipment such as industrial rated ear plugs or ear muffs is a great step to preventing hearing loss, but it must be done on a regular basis. Forgetting for even the span of one eight-hour shift can have a long-lasting result for someone who operates a jackhammer or is the working at the gun range.
Even for people who don’t work exclusively in a loud profession, exposure to loud noises such as in the subway stations and city streets can cause bothersome tinnitus at best or hearing loss at worst. The blare of a taxi horn or emergency siren coming from next to you on the street can be anywhere from 60 dB to 140 dB at 100 feet away. It only takes 85 dB to be considered harmful, though some people are more sensitive than others to loud noises.
With an increase in loudness, the amount of time it takes to suffer damage lessens. By utilizing hearing protection, you can lessen the decibel level, which would allow you to tolerate the louder volumes for longer periods of time.
Restaurants are also another place that people frequent that can be at dangerous volumes. Unfortunately, all too often we encounter places where we must yell to be heard by our dinner companion, whether it’s because of the volume of the conversation of other diners, service of the wait staff, or music being played in the background.
Thanks to Greg Scott, a business owner who has hearing loss, there is now an app that people can use to search for quieter venues. Scott, founder of SoundPrint, wanted something he could use to locate quiet places to take his dates since the background noises in many establishments made it difficult for him to hear and converse.
“Finding quieter venues has gotten more difficult over the years as venues are playing background music at higher levels than before and design their restaurants to be places of entertainment as opposed to places to enjoy the food and connect with companions,” said Scott.
“As a result, noise levels at many venues have risen to the point where they can potentially endanger the hearing health of patrons and venue employees. When you take a measurement and submission on the app, you are essentially putting the venue on notice that you care about the noise levels and want them to mitigate it.”
Pubs, bars, and nightclubs rank up there for loud places to frequent. Many of these locations aren’t somewhere you would think to wear hearing protection, especially if you are going there with a date. Musicians, including makers of classical music, can be exposed to unhealthy sound levels.
Even places you wouldn’t think of as being detrimental to your hearing pose a risk, such as your own home. Vacuums, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and chainsaws can all produce noises up to 100 dB which over the course of clearing your yard could result in damage. For those who work in landscaping or lawn maintenance this can add up to hours each week of exposure to higher than healthy decibel levels.
With unhealthy levels of noise all around us every day, we must take care to protect our hearing. As young people, we don’t look ahead to the years that we might have to live with reduced hearing or even deafness because we wanted to attend a concert and didn’t bother with earplugs because it wasn’t “cool”.
At fifty, sixty, or even in your 30’s, it won’t be “cool” to not hear your spouse or kids talking, your boss calling your name, or that phone call telling you that you’ve been awarded your dream job. Take measures now to protect your hearing so that you can benefit and enjoy all that your future will hold.