Living in a Noisy World and Protecting Our Hearing

Living in a Noisy World and Protecting Our Hearing

Hardly a day passes when we don’t find ourselves in a noisy environment. We often don’t take it as a serious impact to our health, but the U.S. National Library of Medicine says a loud environment can be potentially serious because it can damage our delicate inner ear hearing. We investigate the side effects of living in a noisy world, and learn we need to take care.

Living in a Noisy World Is an Everyday Experience

It’s almost impossible to escape noise pollution in an urban environment. We don’t have to work in a factory to experience the effects of loud sounds. Our shopping malls, schools, sports arenas and gyms all belt out noise that could eventually damage our hearing.

Why Noise Pollution is a Growing Problem

Many factors contribute to this situation according to U.S. National Library of Medicine. Urban sprawl is reaching out into the countryside, and affecting quiet places we once explored as kids. Living in a noisy world is becoming inescapable as aircraft return to the skies, and marketing convinces us to purchase louder entertainment systems.

If there are noise level standards, then it’s almost as if nobody is enforcing them. The government keeps promising more electric autos, but trucks and motorcycles seem to get ever louder. We have to keep lowering the volume of our hearing aids to stay sane. And if we forget to increase them to conversational level, we start getting puzzled looks again.

Wanted and Unwanted Sound in a Noisy World

Noise – and beauty for that matter – is in the mind of the hearer. A near neighbor may rejoice to the smell of a fresh-cut lawn, while to us their gasoline mower is a deafening noise.

A chain saw is 110 decibels loud. 120 raw decibels without hearing protection can cause physical pain even if we only briefly experience it. A large proportion of deaf Americans wear hearing aids because of noise pollution.

How Loud Is Too Loud (Image National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

We may generate some of these damaging sounds ourselves. Boom boxes, personal headphones, even loud finales at symphony concerts can exceed safe limits. Have you heard about these alarming statistics from U.S. Centers for Disease Control?

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is a substantial, often unrecognized, health problem.
  • Three in four teenage students report being exposed to loud sound at school.
  • Half reported regular noise pollution exposure when the work published in 2020.
  • However, most reported their school did not provide hearing protection equipment.
  • There was little evidence of proactive teaching to reduce the risk of hearing loss.

Living in a Noisy World is Part of Our New Normal

If we need to raise our voice to speak to a normal-hearing person - or one wearing digital hearing aids - then we are experiencing the effects of noise pollution. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines unsafe noise level standards as follows:

  • Regular 8-hour exposure to noise levels of 85 dBA can permanently damage our hearing.
  • Where levels exceed 100 dBA (jackhammers for example), 1-hour repeated exposure is sufficient

Permanent noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible. Our only hope is to prevent this happening according to NIOSH. These loud noises are commonest in construction, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and military occupations.

Second Hand Sound Pollution: Living in a Noisy World

Second hand noise pollution can spill over from an event in which we are not directly involved. An electrician’s occupation may be a quiet one, however if they work at a Formula 1 racetrack they could still incur noise-related hearing loss.

A number of common consumer appliances exceeding 90 dBA could also contribute to hearing loss, depending on make and model. Here we think of air-hand-dryers at public facilities, hair dryers in the bedroom, and leaf blowers and lawnmowers in the garden.

Noise-Related Hearing Loss is Permanent

Mild-to-moderate hearing loss is a bit like putting your fingers in your ears when you were a kid, but not too tightly. Clients tell us they can hear sounds, but only dimly. Conversations are particularly difficult to follow, especially in noisy environments. Medically speaking, their inner-ear receptors are weak.

Authorities are constantly tightening up on noise control. However, U.S. National Library of Medicine says baby boomers can’t benefit from these efforts, because the changes came too late for them. That’s why older, partly deaf people may say ‘stop mumbling, speak up, I can’t hear you properly’.

Increasing volume is the only way to make words clearer. In fact, that’s what Blue Angels hearing aids do, and they have already improved the quality of life of over 35,000 satisfied clients. Let’s hand over to a couple of them and hear what they say.

I am hearing things that I haven't heard in a long time. I am beyond excited how much I enjoy not say huh, excuse me what did you say. (Jef Gibson)

For the price, I love my hearing aid. Easy to use. Works great for me. Support staff awesome. I'm so happy I ordered mine. (Anne Lawson)

I am totally satisfied with this hearing aid! I specifically like the way it filters out ambient noise. (Bob Cunningham)