You check the news headlines. You feed the dog and the cat. You stick to your exercise routine. But have you also spent time regularly paying attention to the noises you’re exposing your auditory system to on a daily basis? The structures that support healthy hearing are actually quite delicate and being aware of the conditions they’re subjected to might just make the difference between damaged hearing abilities and healthy hearing for decades to come. Our daily exposure to noise is the average noise energy heard in a day and should be monitored to protect our hearing in the long term.
Why noise damages hearing
It is not just a loud and sudden traumatic noise that can damage hearing. Too-loud repetitive noise sustained over long periods of time can impact the auditory system, as well. The auditory system is comprised of tiny nerves, or hairs, within the inner ear. It is their job to register the noise energy and transmit that information along the auditory nerve which connects the inner ear to the brain. Once the information hits the brain, it is translated into what we perceive as hearing. It’s a complicated and highly sophisticated system that is reliant upon those tiny inner ear nerves to accurately perceive the information.
The aging process results in natural deterioration of these nerve cells, which results in age-related hearing loss. However, if your auditory system is subjected to loud repetitive noise on a frequent basis, the delicate nerve structures can be damaged beyond repair and resulting in hearing loss.
Measuring daily exposure to noise
As a tool, the daily exposure to noise measurement was created to better accommodate workers in noisy environments who needed guidelines in order to monitor their noise exposure. What this requires is noticing and noting the sound levels you are exposed over the period of one day and averaging the decibel levels.
For instance, the maximum recommended decibel level is 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. By using the daily exposure to noise measurement, a construction worker exposed to higher levels while in the field would limit the noisiest time, say only 4 hours, and then balance that with a quieter task for the remaining four hours of their shift. In this way, they are ensuring that their average noise exposure level stays around 85 decibels.
Daily noise exposure in everyday life
Maintaining balance and providing relief for workers in noisy environments is just one way for industries to protect their employees’ hearing health. For the average person not exposed to dangerously loud sounds, monitoring daily noise exposure can be equally important. Perhaps it’s unlikely that you measure the exact decibels you are exposed to, but you can certainly notice the environments you are in on a daily basis and make adjustments as needed.
The modern dilemma
In our modern world, noise just seems to be on the rise. We’re plugged into personal devices constantly. From our smartphones to our tablets, earbuds have become as common of an accessory as sunglasses. If we’re not careful, the volumes on these things can creep up to dangerous levels. Earbuds are particularly dangerous if they’re used to drown out background noise, a function they were never intended to be used for. If this is something you’re guilty of, invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones instead.
A day in the life
Set the intention to monitor your hearing environments over the course of the next week. At the end of each day, compare the noisy environments to the quieter ones you spend time in. If the noisy environments far outweigh the quiet, it might be time to reconsider some of your hearing habits. It could be something as simple as rolling the windows up as you drive by that construction site on the way to work or lowering your car’s radio volume down a few notches (and leaving it there!).
Get your hearing tested at Hearing Health
It’s important to schedule regular hearing tests with us at Hearing Health, especially if your volumes have crept up over time. This might be because you are already experiencing hearing loss. The initial signs can be so subtle that it is hard to self-diagnose hearing loss in its early days. However, catching hearing loss in its early stages can also be the most beneficial when it comes to intervening and treating the condition.