At What Continuous Decibel Level Will Hearing Loss Occur?

a man straining to hear conversation

Today, the surrounding environment exposes us to endless noise and sounds, some of which we might not even realize we perceive, as we are used to them. However, such noises can affect our hearing health, through one-time or prolonged exposure. The condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can vary in severity.

For noise-induced hearing loss to happen, it is enough to be exposed to an intense sound above 95 decibels for just over 15 minutes. Alternatively, it could be experienced through a continued listening of a safe noise of 80 decibels after two hours of exposure. 

In any case, it is essential to speak to an expert audiologist to identify the causes – and most viable solutions – to this condition.

Who can experience noise-induced hearing loss?

Everybody can be subjected to noise-induced hearing loss. Yet, individuals that find themselves in noisy environments daily should be more attentive regarding the surrounding sounds. Even noises that we tend to consider safe – such as a washing machine’s noise or car engines sounds – can be detrimental when listening to it for more extended time frames.

What sounds can cause damage?

As sounds are measured in decibel (dB), it is essential to understand how many decibels relate to a specific sound. For example, a whisper is considered to be 30dB and loud firecrackers can reach a level of 140dB. 

Any noise can cause a level of hearing loss, which can range from mild to severe. Additionally, the louder the noise is, the shorter time it needs to affect an individual’s hearing. It is crucial not to underestimate the effects that staying in a room with a noise level of just 80dB for longer than two hours can have on our hearing’s health.

How to get an understanding of the surrounding noise level

Trying to protect our hearing when we are not sure of how loud a specific environment is can be tricky.

It is essential to remember that a noise considered intense is not necessarily perceived as loud and vice-versa. Indeed, a ticking clock that can sound very loud in a quiet room might not be hearable in a noisier environment. 

Therefore, even placing some distance between you and the source of the sound can reduce the effects it can have on your hearing. In any case, the ability to accurately judge the noise level in a specific environment is crucial to protect our hearing.

How can I know what noise level is safe?

Generally, you should ensure to stay within the 70dB limit on average every 24 hours. To ensure you are protecting your hearing, you could opt to download apps such as the NIOSH sound level meter app. These tools can not only tell you the level of noise around you but also allow you to set a limit to daily exposures. In other cases, you can also set a volume limit on the headphones of your kids and protect their hearing’s health at the same time.

How to protect your hearing

Aside from judging the noise level around you, distancing yourself from the source of a loud sound, and limiting your daily exposure to loud noises, there is a little more you can do to protect your hearing.

Start by assessing the level of noise you are exposed to a daily average. Influencing factors can include your workplace, office, type of job or daily habits. Then, you can consider whether to implement earmuffs for you and your family to use while stationing in a noisy environment.

Learn more about hearing health and how to look after it in the best way through our Pacific Audiology Clinic or get in touch at 503-719-4208