Technologically speaking, the 21st century may be advancing faster than ever before, but it’s certainly setting our hearing back. So many hours of the day are now devoted to plugging in headphones and blaring noise into our ears, and this activity overtime has an everlasting impact on how we perceive sound. Approximately 1 in 5 teenagers today have developed a variation of hearing loss, or that 12.5 percent of children and adolescents aged 6-19 have also endured permanent damage to their ears. As technology continues to rapidly progress and headphones are essentially mandatory for many elements of daily activity, it’s only safe to assume that hearing loss will continue to grow as a health epidemic as we move forward in the future. Understanding the dynamics of sound and how the louder a noise gets, the easier it is for auditory impairment to develop is a crucial component to hearing loss prevention. Here are a few ways to recognize what noise levels can be damaging, symptoms of repetitive exposure to loud sounds and proper ways to ensure auditory safety.
Understanding damaging frequencies
The pressure that sounds create in the ears are measured in decibels. The amount of pressure produced by a noise is what determines the dB level experienced. During a normal conversation, you are enduring somewhere between 40 to 60 dB, depending on how noisy your environment is. When sounds begin to reach 85 dB is when hearing damage can occur. The typical dB level your ears are experiencing when wearing headphones reaches generally around 90-110 dB, depending on how high you have your volume settings. If you are listening to music from your headphones at a level of 90 dB for just 30 minutes, you can already start causing permanent hearing loss damage. Some telltale signs that the volume of your headphones is too loud can be:
- Spontaneous or frequent ringing, buzzing or humming in ears
- Difficulty hearing or communicating in public places
- Listening to music or television at a higher volume than you used to
- Muffled sounds, or experiencing sensations that your ear is clogged
Sometimes the volume through your headphones doesn’t reflect hearing damage as much as how long you spend suffocating your ears with music, as well as all types of background noise. When you start to equate all of the dB levels attributed to your work, plus time spent wearing headphones and possibly attending a concert or packed bar, that can be more than 10 hours of damaging dB levels.
What else is at stake
It is not just our ears that are at risk. According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, besides hearing damage, excess exposure to loud noises can also lead to sleep disturbance, mental health complications and even increased risks of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Mathias Basner, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study, is stern when it comes to helping people realize the danger their ears face everyday.
“In our 24/7 society, noise is pervasive and the availability of quiet places is decreasing. We need to better understand how this constant exposure to noise is impacting our overall health,” Basner said in a statement. “From earbuds blasting music during subway commutes to the constant drone of traffic heard by those who live or work near congested highways to the beeping of monitors that makes up the soundtrack heard by hospital patients and staff, what we hear all day impacts many parts of our bodies.”
All of these factors equate to the alarming statistics attributed to hearing loss in today’s society. Limiting your headphone use and exposure to noisy environments is the least you can do for your ears, as well as preserving your precious sense of hearing in the long run.