How Much Sound Is Too Much Sound?

January 19, 2015

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can happen at any age. Researchers estimate that 10 million Americans suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by noise. Loud sounds can cause long-term damage to the tiny sensory hair cells called cilia (pronounced silly-uh) in the cochlea, which is our hearing organ. In some cases, those exposed to loud noise may only experience a temporary loss of sensitivity to sound. In other instances, either by repeated noise exposure or by a one-time excessively loud exposure to sound, a permanent hearing loss will occur.

Permanent hearing loss caused by loud noise exposure not only makes it difficult to hear, but speech can sound unclear as well, making it difficult at times to have a conversation with friends or family. Additionally, loud sounds can cause ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears, which is called tinnitus. Tinnitus can be annoying to those who experience it and unfortunately, it is permanent in most cases of NIHL.

So, how much is too much?
Once sounds reach 85 decibels (about as loud as a gas-powered lawn mower), exposure to the sound without ear protection can only last for approximately 8 hours without it causing damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea. Each time the sound is increased by 3 decibels, the amount of time that someone can safely be exposed to that sound without fear of permanent damage is cut in half. By the time the sound reaches 100 decibels, the safe exposure time limit is about 15 minutes. 100 decibels is about as loud as a chainsaw.

Protect your ears
So, what can you do about it? Start by having your hearing tested. It’s always a good idea to have a baseline in order to monitor any changes to your hearing that might happen in the future. And, you may be unaware of how much you may be missing already. Second, make sure to invest in good ear protection. Using ear protection in any instance of loud noise will make sure that you do not experience more hearing loss due to noise exposure. Your audiologist can make a suggestion about which of the different types of custom hearing protection products designed for a variety of noisy environments are best for you.

Call us today to schedule your hearing exam. We’ll be glad to test your hearing, make suggestions on how to best protect your ears from further damage and make suggestions for better hearing, too. We care about your ears and are glad to help in any way we can.