How to Prevent Hearing Loss:
What You Need to Know About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Let's face it, we live in a noisy world.
Frequently underestimated, exposure to too much noise often leads to irritability, loss of productivity and inability to concentrate. In addition, exposure to very loud noise, or prolonged exposure to lower levels of noise, can damage your hearing. An estimated 1/3 of Americans, older than age 60, have some degree of irreversible hearing loss. And with today's portable music players and other high tech gadgets, the onset of hearing loss often begins in childhood.
How does hearing loss occur?
Sound travels in waves. Sound waves enter your outer ear and travel to the inner ear, where they vibrate tiny hair cells (small sensory cells, not actual hairs), and convert the sound energy into electrical nerve impulses. The nerve impulses are then carried from the hair cells to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when the hair cells are damaged, either through a one-time exposure to very loud noise, or by repeated exposure to noise at various loudness levels over an extended period of time. Once damaged, hair cells cannot grow back. Often, noise induced healing loss (NIHL) occurs gradually over time, and a person with NIHL may not even be aware of it. Sounds may become increasingly distorted or muffled and speech may become difficult to understand. A person with NIHL will often turn the TV volume up, speak in a loud voice, and ask you to repeat yourself.
Preventing Hearing Loss: How loud is too loud?
We measure noise in decibels (dB). A decibel level of zero is total silence. A whisper, about 30 dB. Every step up of 10 dB reflects a tenfold increase in sound. So, 100 decibels is 10 times noisier than 90 decibels. Noise that is 120 dB is painful to the ear.
Prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels can damage your hearing; in some people, even as low as 75 dB. The louder the sound, the shorter the time before damage may occur. Sound at 100 dB can cause damage after 15 minutes of exposure. Sounds at 110 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss after just one minute of exposure. A vacuum cleaner, at 3 ft. away, is about 80 dB; lawn mowers, tractors and hand drills are in the 90 to 98 decibel range; a jet engine, 100 ft. away is about 130 dB. Today's iPods and MP3 players, on high volume, average about 105 dB, sometimes even as loud as a whopping 130 dB!
How Can You Prevent Hearing Loss?
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 100 percent preventable.
If you have difficulty hearing or being heard by someone within 3 feet, the noise is too loud.
The best way to reduce noise exposure is to either walk away, or to simply stop the noise at the source. Turn off, or at least down, the volume.
While this is possible with such things as the television, MP3 player or iPod, it is often very difficult or even impossible to do elsewhere.
Wearing personal hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, is an economical and effective method of blocking noise. When using this option, look for something that offers an airtight seal. Wear hearing protection around loud sounds, even while doing everyday tasks such as mowing the lawn.
But, while suitable for many situations, it is important to remember that personal hearing protection blocks all types of noise, including people's voices, and necessary warning signals. Therefore, they may not be suitable for all noise applications. In these situations, it may be necessary to call in a noise remediation expert.
At Sound Barriers, Inc., we manufacture custom sound blocking and sound absorbing products. Our acoustical enclosures and barrier walls are designed to contain noise, and to act as a barrier between noisy and quiet areas.
Because of the effects of reverberation (an echo caused when a sound wave encounters a solid object and bounces back) however, an acoustic barrier alone, may not be enough. In these instances, the addition of an absorber material is imperative to sound proofing and controlling noise. And, in many noise control applications, the use of an absorber alone, such as our Wall Mounted Absorber (WMA) panels, offers an effective solution.
Although this approach may sound costly, it usually proves to be the most economical and effective.
What approach is best for your noise application? If you have an existing noise problem, an acoustic expert from Sound Barriers, Inc. can offer the best sound proofing solution. If you are getting ready to construct a new home or building, consulting with our acoustic engineers and consultants prior to construction can help you prevent a noise problem and save you the cost of fixing it later.
At Sound Barriers Inc., we know noise and vibration control. Our experienced team of acoustic engineers and consultants are standing by to offer your Sound Solution today!