We live in an exciting and bustling world. Loud sounds are all around us, from the roaring engines of lawnmowers to the clamor of construction sites. Even your favorite hobbies may involve amplified sound exposure: watching a live concert or the latest movie at the local theater; spending an afternoon at the shooting range; cheering on your team at a live sporting event.
But loud noise levels have the potential to damage your hearing, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss. In fact, 10 million Americans have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)—the official term for permanent hearing loss caused by excessive noise. And as many as 40 million adults have hearing test results that indicate hearing loss from exposure to loud noise.
NIHL can result from brief exposure to extremely high sound levels, or repeated exposure to loud noise over time. Sometimes it only affects one ear, while other times it affects both. This type of hearing loss often occurs gradually over time, making it hard to detect until the damage is already done. Learn about the science behind sound and how to protect your hearing here.
Sound travels in waves. The intensity of energy that these sound waves produce is measured in units called decibels (dB). The lowest hearing decibel level is 0 dB, which indicates nearly total silence and is the softest sound that the human ear can hear. Generally speaking, the louder the sound, the higher the decibel number. So, just how loud is 50, 65, 75, or even 95 decibels? These benchmarks should give you an idea.
Researchers have discovered that extended or repeated noise exposure to levels of 85 decibels or above can cause permanent hearing loss. When it comes to protecting yourself from damaging levels of sound, wear hearing protection or avoid environments with a sound volume higher than 85 decibels.
Loud sounds are everywhere, and the damage can be permanent. The good news? This type of hearing loss is also very preventable. There are several ways you can protect yourself from the harmful effects of high noise levels.
We’re all very familiar with units of measurement, such as inches and pounds, but decibel levels can be harder to gauge. Luckily, a variety of decibel meter apps are available for smartphones. As you decide how to protect your hearing, consider these apps, which can measure the noise levels around you to determine how many decibels is too loud. They'll help you take educated action to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.
This app was developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to measure noise levels in the workplace for safety and health professionals. However, it is free and available to the general public. The app uses the phone’s built-in microphone to give you real-time noise exposure data, which you can then save and share with others. (Note: For best results, you can purchase an external, calibrated microphone).
Free; available for iOS only.
If you've ever wondered, "how is sound measured?" you may be interested in this popular and free decibel meter app. It turns your smartphone into a professional (and portable) sound level meter, and is known for its accuracy, reliability and easy-to-use interface. Decibel X displays real-time sound levels both numerically (in decibels) as well as visually in beautiful wave and bar graphs. Bonus: This app is also supported by Apple Watch, so you can measure sound right from your wrist.
Free with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android.
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