Noise: Annoying or Dangerous?
The waves of sound that we use to communicate with one another, the words of speech, the blast of a siren, the ringing of a phone or the knock on a door, can also make it difficult for us to do just that, communicate. Oftentimes, we think of the difficulty of communicating as meaning that we’re trying to converse over the din of loud surroundings, like a restaurant or a sporting event.
But noise can actually be dangerous, rather than simply annoying. When noise reaches a certain volume, measured in decibels (dB), it can become dangerous to the sensitive inner workings of our ears. The threshold between dangerous levels of noise, which require hearing protection, and safe levels is around 85dB, or the sound of heavy traffic on a busy street. Not all sound is equal, though. In order for the sound of traffic to be truly harmful, we must be exposed to it over a long period of time. Other sounds, like gunshots or the explosions of fireworks, can be instantly harmful if they’re loud enough.
These sounds can permanently damage your ability to hear and cause noise induced hearing loss, which is the most preventable form of hearing loss.
So, how can you protect yourself, then? The best and easiest way is to wear hearing protection, like ear plugs or ear muffs, before you’re exposed to a loud environment. If you can’t wear hearing protection because of sudden, unexpected noise, move away from the sound as quickly as possible. And if you feel that you were exposed to a dangerous level of noise, get your hearing tested as soon as possible.
Protecting yourself from dangerous noise will enable you to continue to hear all of the pleasant sounds of life!