Noise Induced Hearing Loss and Its Prevention (cont.)

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How loud can a sound get before it affects hearing?

Many experts agree that continual exposure to more than 85 decibels (dB) is dangerous to the ears. As already mentioned, the decibel is a measure of the intensity of sound. For example:

  • the faintest sound the human ear can detect is labeled 0 dB, whereas the noise at a rocket pad during launch approaches 180 dB;
  • a quiet whisper is approximately 30 dB;
  • normal conversation is 60 dB;
  • a lawnmower is 90 dB; and
  • the sound from an iPod Shuffle has been measured at 115 dBs.

Decibels are measured logarithmically, which means that the sound energy of noise increases by units of 10. Therefore, a dB increase of a sound from 20to 30 dB is an increase of 10 times, and a dB increase of a sound from 20 to 40 dB corresponds to increase of 100 times (10 times 10).

Do the duration and closeness of exposure to loud noise relate to hearing damage?

There is a direct correlation between the duration of exposure to a loud noise and the damage to hearing. This means that the longer the exposure, the greater the damage. Furthermore, the closer one is to the source of the intense noise, the more damaging it is. An example of this is iPod hearing loss. There is an alarming increase in hearing loss in children and young adults due to listening to loud music through earplugs so close to the eardrum.

Another example is discharging firearms. The loud blast of a gun so close to the ear can cause problems for anyone not wearing ear protection.

What factors increase a person's susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss?

The following factors have been associated with an increased susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss:

  • blue eyes,
  • light skin,
  • family history of hearing loss,
  • diabetes mellitus,
  • Meniere disease,
  • iron deficiency,
  • vitamin A deficiency,
  • older age,
  • atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and
  • smoking tobacco.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2014

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Noise Induced Hearing Loss - Identifying Symptoms Question: Describe your symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss, or those in a friend or relative.
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