Chances are you have heard the term decibel thrown around when talking about loud noises and hearing loss. But what does it really mean? Understanding how audiologists measure sounds can help you be more aware of your surroundings and protect your hearing health.
The Intensity of Sound
Energy that travels in waves in known as sound. It is measured in frequency and amplitude. Frequency is the measure of the number of sound vibrations in a single second and is reported in Hertz (Hz). Amplitude measures the pressure or forcefulness of a sound wave and is reported in decibels (dB). The more amplitude a sound has the louder it is.
Unlike a traditional linear scale, a decibel scale is logarithmic. This means that every increase of 10 decibels is 10 times louder. With silence measuring zero, 10 dB is 10 times louder, but 20 dB is 100 times louder.
How Decibels Relate to Hearing Loss
Hearing loss caused by exposure to dangerously loud sounds is known as noise induced hearing loss. Experts estimate that nearly 15 percent of all Americans between the ages of 20 to 69 are at risk of this type of hearing loss.
This begs the question, how loud is too loud? The general school of thought is anything over 85 dB can cause hearing loss. To put this into perspective:
- 60 dB – normal conversation
- 85 dB – heavy Portland traffic
- 105 dB – maximum volume on an iPod
- 120 dB – rock concert
- 150 dB – firearm
Protecting Yourself from Noise
The best way to protect yourself from loud noises is to avoid them completely. While this may be doable for some, we unfortunately live in a loud world. And many of our favorite after-work activates and hobbies put us in loud situations.
There is good news: You can easily protect your ears through the use of proper hearing protection. Disposable earplugs can be purchased at any local pharmacy. These are a one-size-fits-all model; while they work in a pinch, if you are using them often you should consider investing in a better option.
Custom-made earmolds are available from your audiologist. A mold is taken of your ear to ensure the earplugs fit perfectly. They provide superior hearing protecting in a wide range of potentially dangerous environments.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from noise induced hearing loss, contact the experts at Audiology Center Northwest today.