By: Jane Langille
Think hearing loss just happens to older people? A recent study showed that 1 in 5 adolescents are already showing signs of noise-induced hearing loss.1 Young people are listening to music at high volumes for prolonged periods of time, not realizing the damage they are causing.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Hearing loss progresses over your lifetime. It’s painless and by the time you notice, it’s too late to prevent it. Noise-induced hearing loss is a result of exposure to loud sounds, measured in decibel levels (dB), and the lengths of time of you are exposed. The louder the sound, the less time it takes for the noise to harm your hearing:2
- Sounds with levels below 70 dB will not cause hearing loss, no matter how long you listen, e.g. normal conversation is 60 dB
- Sounds over 95 dB put you at significant risk of permanent hearing loss if you are exposed for 45 minutes or more daily, such as using power tools or a snowmobile
- Sounds over 105 dB put you at risk if you are exposed for 5 minutes or more daily. For example listening to high volume on your personal stereo is 105 dB and a rock concert is at least 110 dB. A vuvuzela, the plastic trumpet fans blow at World Cup soccer games can have a sound level of 120 dB, which is unsafe at more than 9 seconds daily.
Are you at risk?
Think about where you encounter loud noises on a daily basis. Perhaps it’s on your commute to work via subway, or attending your children’s indoor swim meet. Not being able to understand the conversation around you is a good indication that the sound your ears are receiving is too loud.
There is an unfortunate trend at sporting events and school assemblies to encourage the crowd to scream as loud as possible as a way to cheer. For example, the Seattle Seahawks set a record in 2013 at 136.6 dB, which was shattered recently by the Kansas City Chiefs at 142.2 dB. It’s such a shame that shattering hearing is considered a way to show support and has become a contest.
Protect your ears
There are many things you can do to protect your hearing and that of your loved ones:
- Get your hearing tested. Speak to your doctor if you have persistent ringing in your ears, an early sign of noise-induced hearing loss.
- Listen safely. Use earplugs in noisy environments and keep some in your purse or gym bag. Foam earplugs are available at your local drug store and can reduce sound by 30 dB, making the sound of a loud action movie bearable and at a level where you can still hear the dialogue. Set a limit for personal stereos when listening in a quiet room. Be aware that noisy toys can harm children’s hearing, especially if held close to the ear.
- If your ears are ringing or feel muffled after noise exposure, make sure to have some quiet time so they can recover and see your doctor.
Speak up. Ask for the volume to be turned down — you’re probably not the only person finding it too loud!
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Health Canada
- Kaulback: Protecting hearing should be goal for Flames fans: Calgary Herald
- Going to the game? Pack earplugs and lose the vuvuzela, WHO says: The Globe and Mail