When you get a hearing test, your audiologist will show you your results on an audiogram, which is a chart that shows the exact specifications of your hearing loss. This information includes what the quietest sound that you can still hear is, which is measured in decibels.
What Is a Decibel?
Decibels measure the loudness of sounds. Another way to say this is they measure the amplitude of soundwaves. The more amplitude a sound has, the louder it is and the higher the decibel rating. Decibels are commonly notated as dB.
The decibel scale is logarithmic rather than linear. This means that for every 10 dB increase on the decibel scale, there is a 10-fold increase in volume. Therefore, an 80-dB sound is 10 times louder than a 70-dB sound.
What Level of Sounds Are Safe?
Any sound louder than 85 dB can cause hearing damage over time. The louder a sound is, the more quickly it can damage your hearing. City traffic at 85 dB can damage your hearing after eight hours or more of exposure, while a 100-dB sound like a motorcycle engine can cause damage in just 15 minutes.
Here are some everyday sounds and their decibel outputs for reference:
- 20 dB – rustling leaves
- 30 dB – whisper
- 40 dB – quiet library
- 50 dB – moderate rainfall
- 60 dB – normal conversation
- 70 dB – vacuum cleaner
- 80 dB – heavy traffic
- 90 dB – power tools
- 100 dB – MP3 players at full volume
- 110 dB – live concert
- 120 dB – jet plane at takeoff
- 130 dB – jackhammer
- 140 dB – fireworks/gunshot
How to Protect Your Hearing
Hearing loss caused by noise exposure, also called noise-induced hearing loss, is preventable in most cases. If you work in a noisy environment or enjoy hobbies that involve noise exposure, it’s important to invest in hearing protection… and then actually wear it.
If you work somewhere like a construction site, your employer should provide hearing protection for you. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has implemented a Hearing Conservation Program that outlines safety information in the workplace and employee rights.
For yardwork and other regular activities (that don’t expose you to extremely loud sounds like explosions or jackhammers), earplugs are inexpensive and available at most drug stores. There are disposable foam models for comfort and washable rubber/silicone ones for durability.
Custom earplugs are the best option to protect against unsafe decibel levels. Molded to the shape of your ear in an audiologist’s office, they are the best choice for comfort and protection. Musicians plugs and hunter’s plugs let safe noise levels pass through with crystal clarity while blocking very loud, unsafe volume levels.
To schedule a hearing test or to order custom earplugs, call Arizona Hearing Specialists today!