The Impact Of Environmental Noises On Hearing Health

portrait of woman walking on the city street covering her ears concept of noise pollution

The opportunity to immerse yourself in total silence comes rarely these days. Even if one takes great lengths to eliminate environmental noise, there’s always something going on in the background.
Just think of the variety of noises we expose ourselves to each day in the course of living our lives: barking dogs, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, loud music, dishwasher running, the hum of the air conditioner, children playing, construction down the road, an airplane roaring overhead… the list goes on and on.
With all of this environmental noise, it’s no wonder at least a small percentage of people at varying ages suffer from noise induced hearing loss. According to a 2011-2012 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 24% of adults nationwide have indications of hearing loss due to noise exposure.
City Living
For people living in or near cities, the problem is even worse. For example, the average number of noise complaints made daily in New York City alone reaches 50,000 — that’s each day. While the federal government recommends any one person should not repeatedly be exposed to noises that exceed 70 decibels (dB), the average daily symphony of environmental noise from taxi cabs, construction zones, helicopters buzzing overhead, etc. reaches a staggering 95 dB in the busiest of New York City’s five boroughs.
Long-Term Impacts
So what does all of this noise exposure mean for your hearing health? Depending on the type and persistence of the noise, your hearing can be directly and permanently affected. Hearing loss caused by environmental noise can make normal conversation with others difficult, especially in noisy environments. The crispness of sound, especially speech, can become significantly diminished. Background noises may begin to disappear as hearing health is increasingly impacted.
While hearing damage caused by environmental noise pollution causes significant consequences on a personal level, it also impacts our economy. According to the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, if hearing loss from excessive noise exposure was prevented, $58 to $152 billion could be saved by consumers, healthcare recipients, and employers every year.
Hearing Loss Prevention
While the federal and state governments have supported hearing loss prevention legislation with varying degrees of enthusiasm in the past, there are measures that can be taken on the individual level now to prevent excessive noise induced hearing loss. The key to this type of hearing prevention focuses on protecting the stereocilia (microscopic hairs) of the cochlea inside the inner ear. This is what is irreparably damaged when noise induced hearing loss occurs.
Understanding what particular noises causes the most damage is key to hearing loss prevention. Heavy city traffic runs at about 85 decibels, motorcycles operate at 95 decibels, a music playing device at max volume is typically around 105 decibels, emergency vehicle sirens are a whopping 120 decibels, and firecrackers come in at 150 decibels.
While any one type of noise may only be heard occasionally, if you find yourself exposed to a multitude of high decibel sounds throughout each day, you may want to seriously consider investing in some low cost ear protection. A little protection will go a long way in preserving and protecting your hearing. Contact us today to discuss hearing loss prevention with a hearing health professional.

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We’ve been serving the Southern Connecticut community for over 30 years and aim to make the road to better hearing an easy and comfortable one.

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