Noise pollution is bad: we all know that. The “noise-cancelling technology” in our headphones can filter it out, and if it persists, we can get into a really bad mood. Whether it’s a noisy neighbor, overhead noise from an airport or the garbage truck, noise pollution surrounds us nearly all the time.
Filters for Noise Pollution
It is crucial to be able to filter out unwanted sounds in this sea of noise. We use our “noise filters” so we can hear the things we want to hear. Noise pollution is made up of all of the sounds that we don’t want to hear.
Some of the every-day sounds that we like can also pose a risk to hearing health, however. Loud music from speakers or ear buds can bring sounds into your ear canal that are so loud they can cause damage, even as we enjoy them. Fun activities like concerts, movies and fireworks can be some of the worst offenders to hearing health, even though we love them.
As a general rule, sounds that exceed 80 decibels will cause hearing impairment, either temporary or permanent. Very loud noises that hurt our ears, like an airplane overhead or a gunshot can easily surpass 100 decibels and can cause hearing damage immediately.
Some average noise levels in our everyday lives are: a lawnmower can reach about 90 decibels, a vacuum cleaner runs at about 70 decibels, and a normal conversation is commonly measured at around 60 dB.
Our whole bodies can actually be affected by noise pollution. An abrupt loud noise can disrupt digestion, alter the heartbeat and change breathing patterns. Consistent loud noise can cause irritability and insomnia and can even affect blood pressure.
You may notice a ringing in your ears after you leave a particularly noisy environment, such as a sporting event. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. If you experience several episodes of tinnitus, these noise exposures may cause permanent hearing loss. One reason many people lose hearing as they age is this cumulative effect of hearing damage.
What Can I Do?
The good news is that we can protect ourselves from noise pollution, and take steps to ensure we have healthy hearing well into old age. One way to protect your hearing health is to limit your exposure to the noises that you can control, such as music and speakers at home. When you listen to music on the go, instead of earbuds, choose over-the-ear headphones, because they are less likely to damage hearing.
When you know you will be in a very noisy environment, try to avoid the loudest areas, or bring ear plugs. When there is a lawnmower or other equipment outside, close the windows until it stops.
Noise-canceling headphones are also a great choice, because they allow you to enjoy your music at a lower volume, which helps to protect your hearing in the future.
By taking proactive measures to protect your hearing every day, you can prevent hearing loss as you age.
If you think you could have hearing loss, no matter what the cause, be sure to visit your audiologist immediately to take action. You may find a resolution that can inhibit or stop the development of hearing damage.
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