Winter is most definitely here. The cold, dark days invite many of us to snuggle up at home, warm and cosy. Being at home comes with many welcome benefits. The smells of fresh, home cooked food or the comfort of your favorite armchair.
The warmth, however, isn’t the only thing that we trap inside in the winter. You might be surprised to know that we also trap the noise produced by our daily living.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss - An Overview
Before we get into the details of noise in your daily life, let’s first look at noise induced hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss caused by exposure to dangerously loud noise. NIHL can happen immediately or gradually over time. Immediate NIHL could be the result of a sudden, loud noise such as an explosion. Gradual NIHL can be the result of continued exposure to potentially dangerous levels of noise over time.
NIHL can be permanent, but it can also be temporary, and can affect anyone, at any age. Learn more about how noise can impact your health here.
How Does Noise Affect My Hearing Health?
Your ability to hear depends on a number of delicate structures in your ear. As the NIDCD notes, “Hearing depends on a series of complex steps that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals. Our auditory nerve then carries these signals to the brain.”
One component of our ability to hear involves tiny hair cells, known as the stereocilia. These hair cells, located in your inner ear, play an important role in translating the noises we hear into sounds our brain can interpret. If these hair cells are damaged or die, they do not grow back. In turn, that impacts our ability to hear. Loud, dangerous levels of noise can affect these delicate hair cells.
How Loud is Too Loud?
It’s important to note that how loud a sound is, is not the only thing that matters. It’s also important to consider how long you are exposed to the sound / noise. Both are related to the risk of NIHL.
The recommendation for daily noise exposure is that you shouldnt exceed 85dB. Sounds above 120dB can cause immediate damage. To help you judge the noise in your environment, ask yourself this: “Can I speak to the person next to me without having to raise our voices?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s a good indication that the noise around you is potentially dangerous.
Common Hearing Hazards in the Home
Now that you have a better understanding of noise, let’s look at common hearing hazards in the home.
You might be surprised to find out just how loud some common household items actually are! As we mentioned, it’s not just how loud something is. It’s also how long you are exposed to that noise. Here are how some common household appliances measure up:
- Vacuum cleaner: 60-85 dB
- Hair dryer: 60-95 dB
- Blender: 80-90 dB
- Washing machine: 50-75 dB
- Television audio: 70 dB
- Doorbell and telephone ring: 80 dB
- Garbage disposal: 70-95 dB
Remember - noises in excess of 120dB can immediately damage your hearing. You can measure how loud your environment is with a decibel meter application on your smartphone, such as Decibel X.
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
Understanding how noise affects your hearing is the first step to protecting your hearing health. The next is to be aware of the noise in your environment.
If you are repeatedly exposed to dangerous noise levels, for example in your workplace, regular hearing assessments can protect your hearing. Your hearing healthcare specialist will be able to identify any changes to your baseline hearing, and recommend measures to help avoid further damage to your hearing. If you’d like to book an appointment with the hearing healthcare professionals at HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology), call 607-323-4061 or click here to book a consultation with us online.