A hearing epiphany

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already know that I traveled this past weekend for a wedding. In an attempt to reduce my landfill waste, I typically use hand dryers in public bathrooms. On this trip, though, I noticed that the hand dryers were really LOUD. I’m not sure what sparked that particular moment of enlightenment (perhaps it was the 3:30 AM alarm clock fatigue), but I decided to look into it a little further. As it turns out, hand dryers are super loud. In fact, they may even lead to hearing loss in children. Ask this 13 year old child who studied this!

My mind again wandered to noise levels when, later that evening, we found ourselves at an establishment in the northern Atlanta suburbs that had a DJ spinning some beats.. I said to my husband, “Am I just grumpy (remember the 3:30 AM alarm?) or is this music really loud?” I pulled out my trusty decibel meter and lo and behold the reading was THIS (see picture to the left).

If hand dryers and DJs are that loud, what else in our everyday lives are really loud? And how long can we be exposed to these sounds before our hearing is impacted?

I found this handy graphic from Chicago ENT. Not only does it explain some common noises per deciBel level, but it also explains how long one can be exposed to that sound without ear protection before hearing damage can occur.

Other common environmental noises and their deciBel levels are:

  • Restaurants and bars: Anywhere from 65-80. This is why acoustical engineering is important!

  • Alarm clocks: 80 dB

  • Leaf blower: 80-85 dB

  • Hair dryers: 80-90 dB (GUILTY)

  • Food processor/blender: 80-90 dB

  • Subway trains: 100 dB

  • Max volume on a stereo or headphone device: 110 dB

  • Balloon popping: 125 dB

Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to protect your ears from these noisy situations.

  • Plug your ears. If you’re out in public and don’t carry ear plugs with you and suddenly an ambulance drives by with its sirens blaring, plug your ears. If you’re waiting for a subway and one pulls up, plug your ears.

  • Move away from the source of the noise. If you’re at a bar and there’s a loud band or speakers, move away from the noise. There is a fancy math equation that basically calculates that for every x amount of feet away one moves from a noise source, the decibel impact decreases exponentially. Please don’t make to find the equation. I promise you, moving away from the source is good.

  • Check your volume. If you really need to jam out to a song, jam out and then turn the volume down.

  • Put your windows up when you drive. People, I can’t express how important it is to not have your windows down on the freeway when you’re driving 80 MPH. Between the noise of traffic and the additional noise of wind, highway driving is LOUD. Keep the windows down when you’re cruising at 30 MPH in your neighborhood instead.

  • USE EAR PROTECTION. Simple foam ear plugs are enough to help prevent hearing loss while using lawn equipment or attending a concert.

Take care of your ears! You only get one set!

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