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Volume knob set to a safe level that won't harm your hearing.

Have you ever gone to the beach and noticed one of those “Beware of Shark” warnings? It’s not exactly a warning you dismiss. You may even think twice about swimming at all with a sign like that (if the sign is written in big red letters that’s especially true). Inexplicably, though, it’s difficult for people to listen to warnings concerning their hearing in the same way.

Current research has found that millions of people ignore warning signs when it comes to their hearing (this research specifically looked at populations in the United Kingdom, but there’s little doubt the concern is more global than that). Awareness is a big part of the issue. Fear of sharks is rather instinctive. But being afraid of loud noise? And the real question is, what volume level is too loud?

Loud And Hazardous Sound is All Around us

Your hearing isn’t just in danger at a rock concert or construction site (although both of those situations are, without a doubt, harmful to your hearing). There are potential hazards with many common sounds. That’s because the duration of sound is as harmful as the volume. Your hearing can be harmed with even low level sounds like dense city traffic if you experience it for more than two hours at a time.

keep reading to find out when sound becomes too loud:

  • 30 dB: This is the sound level you would find in normal conversation. You should be just fine at this level for an indefinite period.
  • 80 – 85 dB: This is the sound level of heavy traffic, a lawnmower, or an air conditioner. This volume will usually become dangerous after two hours of exposure.
  • 90 – 95 dB: Think of how loud a motorcycle is. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this level of sound.
  • 100 dB: An oncoming subway train or a mid-sized sports event are at this sound level (depending on the city, of course). This level of sound can become hazardous after 15 minutes of exposure.
  • 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up as high as it will go? That’s normally around this volume on most smartphones. This amount of exposure is dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
  • 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and injury can occur at or above this level (consider an arena sized sporting event or rock show).

How Loud is 85 dB?

Generally, you’re in the danger zone when you’re dealing with any sound 85 dB or louder. The problem is that it’s not always obvious just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound is not so tangible.

And hearing warnings commonly get neglected for this reason particularly when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain. Here are a couple of potential solutions:

  • Get an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to directly safeguard your ears. But there are several free apps that can function as sound level monitors. It’s difficult to determine what 85 dB feels like so your hearing can be damaged without you even knowing it. Using this app to monitor noise levels, then, is the solution. Utilizing this method will make it more instinctive to identify when you are moving into the “danger zone”. (Or, the app will simply tell you when things get too loud).
  • Sufficient training and signage: This goes for workspaces, in particular. Signage and training can help reinforce the real dangers of hearing loss (and the benefits of protecting your hearing). In addition, just how noisy your workspace is, can be clarified by signage. Helping employees know when hearing protection is recommended or necessary with proper training can be very helpful.

When in Doubt: Protect

No signage or app will ever be perfect. So take the time to protect your hearing if you have any doubt. Noise damage, over a long enough period of time, can result in hearing loss. And nowadays, it’s never been easier to damage your ears (it’s a simple matter of listening to your music too loudly).

If you’re listening to headphones all day, you should not increase the volume past the mid-mark. If you keep cranking it up to hear your music over background sound you need different headphones that have noise cancellation.

So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to acknowledge it. And in order to do this, you need to raise your own recognition and knowledge level. Protecting your ears, wearing ear protection, or reducing your exposure, is easy enough. That begins with a little knowledge of when you should do it.

These days that should also be easier. Especially now that you know what to be aware of.

Schedule a hearing examination right away if you think you may have hearing loss.

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