We tend to become so used to all the loud noises around us on a daily basis that it often comes to the point where they are barely noticeable. Whether you are living in an urban or rural area, exposure to loud sounds can be frequent and harmful. Numerous studies show that repeated contact with noise increases the risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
It is not just the external environmental factors that generally come to mind, like heavy machinery, traffic, and construction. Personal devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and gaming devices can also contribute to hearing loss when used at high volumes.
What is Considered Noise Pollution?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise pollution includes any atmospheric sound that reaches about 65 decibels (dB). Sounds that reach 75 dB and above are considered potentially dangerous to your hearing. On the extreme end, noises that approach 120 dB are exceedingly high risk for ear damage.
Since so many different sources of noise pollution have become so common and widespread, instances of hearing loss have increased considerably with most people not even being aware of the growing issue. WHO estimates that there are roughly 360 million people living worldwide with some degree of hearing loss.
What Common Sounds Contribute to Daily Noise Pollution?
While it is true that exposure to heavy machinery and farm equipment in rural areas can be detrimental for hearing, the biggest risks come from living in large cities. Densely populated metropolises present all kinds of risks to healthy hearing. Some factors include:
- Vehicles and Traffic
- Heavy traffic alone can generate up to 85 dB
- Horns – car (90 dB), motorcycle (95 dB), bus (100 dB)
- Roadside construction equipment – up to 110 dB
- Busy restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centres – average of 100 dB
- Concerts, live music, sporting events – up to 110 dB
- Air traffic – up to 130 dB
- Headphones – many people in big cities listen to headphones while commuting – safe listening levels range from 60 to 80 dB
What are the Effects of Regular Exposure to Noise Pollution?
Recent research is showing that everyday noise pollution can have wider reaching effects than just physical damage. While sustaining physical damage to your ears is definitely cause for concern, there are also mental and social impacts to consider.
- Inner ear damage
- Impaired perception of sound
- Reduced range of hearing frequency
- Increased sensitivity to loud noises
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbance
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased irritability or aggression
- Chronic fatigue
- Impaired memory
- Loss of focus and concentration
- Strained communication
- Social isolation
How to Protect Your Ears from Noise Pollution
As Noise-Induced Hearing Loss continues to be a growing issue around the globe, there are several recommendations and daily practices to utilize to protect your ears from noise pollution.
- Identify and reduce exposure to loud noises
- Monitor your listening volume on electronic devices
- Move away from loud sounds when possible and limit length of exposure
- Wear ear protection
- Ear plugs, ear muffs, noise-cancelling headphones
- Can be used for work, sleep, blocking out loud environmental sounds
- Check noise ratings on appliances and equipment before use
- Avoid spending prolonged periods of time in noisy environments
- Give your ears a rest in quiet areas whenever possible
- Carry hearing protection with you for whenever it may be needed
- Get your hearing checked regularly by a hearing professional