Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Causes

Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA

Until a cure for sensorineural hearing loss is discovered, protecting our hearing ability is the only way to ensure we keep as much of our hearing as possible throughout the course of our lives. While age-related hearing loss will affect the majority of us by the time we reach our 70s, we can minimize its impact by avoiding loud sound whenever possible.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to keep noise levels below 85 dBA or provide hearing protection for employees, but if we are exposed to 85 dBA of noise for the entirety of an 8-hour shift, that means any additional sound at or above 85 dBA in the course of the day will cause hearing loss, for reasons we will explain shortly. If we work in an environment with 85 dBA of sound for a full day, simply driving home with the windows down means we will have some amount of hearing loss by the end of the day.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) at Home

Most of us are aware that riding a motorcycle, shooting guns, or playing the electric guitar at high volumes can damage our hearing. Hopefully, we all take precautions when engaging in these activities. But hearing loss can also be caused by quite a few everyday activities that we might not think about.

Sound doesn’t have to be painful, or even obviously “too loud,” in order to cause hearing loss. After about 8 hours of exposure, even sound levels as low as 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) can cause hearing loss. That’s about the loudness we experience when mowing the lawn, or using a hair dryer, blender, or power tool. While we don’t usually do any of these things for 8 continuous hours, we might move between loud activities on a busy day around the house, and by the end of the day we might just have some hearing loss if we haven’t protected our hearing.

Another concern is that as the sound gets even a little bit louder, it takes less time for hearing loss to set in. For every three additional decibels, the amount of time before our hearing is damaged is cut in half.

  • 88 dBA – 4 hours
  • 91 dBA – 2 hours
  • 94 dBA – 1 hour
  • 97 dBA – 30 minutes
  • 100 dBA – 15 minutes

If you’re engaged in any activity where the sound might be in this range, hearing protection is a good idea. Even if you’re not planning to be exposed for a long enough duration to cause hearing loss, it’s better to be on the safe side. You never know whether your activity may run long, or if you’re actually being exposed to more noise than you imagine. If you listen to music while operating power tools, for example, then the noise level is actually significantly higher.

Speaking of music…

Stereo Systems and Personal Listening Devices (PLDs)

It’s easy to become habituated to loud sound. Let’s say we mow the lawn, then come inside to listen to some music. After being exposed to the gas engine of a lawnmower for a half hour or so, a louder volume from our stereo system or headphones will feel more comfortable. If we listen for a while, we’re likely to turn the stereo up at some point as we become habituated, again, to the volume of the stereo itself. In essence, as we get used to loud sounds around us, we tend to make the volume of desired sound louder and louder, even when there is no other sound for it to compete with!

Perhaps the greatest danger is the personal listening device, or PLD. With most PLDs, even half of the available volume will cause hearing loss in a very short amount of time. It’s important to take frequent breaks to ensure we’re not getting used to too much volume. Whenever possible, it is better to listen to music in the air than in headphones, and it is better to listen in over-the-ear headphones than in earbuds. The greater the distance between the sound source and our ears, the less likely it is that the sound will damage our hearing.

Custom Hearing Protection

If you are concerned about the frequency of your exposure to loud sounds, custom hearing protection is an excellent option to protect you from over-exposure. Custom earplugs are comfortable even during long periods of wear, and they are designed to attenuate sound evenly across the entire frequency spectrum, meaning that everything sounds the same as normal, just quieter. They can be made to reduce sound by any number of degrees, so you don’t have to worry about being over-protected, which can promote feelings of unreality and make communication difficult.

Make an appointment for a hearing test today and get fitted for custom earplugs! And if you already have hearing loss, hearing aids are the best way to ensure that your lifestyle isn’t interrupted by its effects. Make an appointment for a hearing test and take charge of your hearing health!