Ahhh, spring! That wonderful time of year when everything is new again -- and we are mysteriously compelled to engage in the annual ritual of spring cleaning.
Unfortunately, some of the equipment we use to clean inside and out this time of year is hard on our hearing. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), individuals who are exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels (dB) for more than eight hours daily run the risk of permanently damaging their hearing. That's why employers with noisy job environments are required to provide hearing protection for their employees.
And while you may not be working in a noisy environment eight hours a day, the equipment you use to accomplish your every day chores can be "deafening", too. Repeated exposure to loud noise can permanently damage the delicate hair cells of our inner ear that are responsible for translating the noise we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sounds we understand. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can cause temporary hearing loss, a feeling of stuffiness, or ringing in your ears which disappear in a few hours -- but repeated exposure to loud noise can cause permanent and irreversible damage.
For your reference, here's a quick list of common outdoor equipment and household appliances and the noise levels they register.
- Lawn Mower: 88-94 dB
- Drill: 92-95 dB
- Weed Whacker: 94-96 dB
- Leaf blower: 95-105 dB
- Tractor: 95-105 dB
- Circular saw: 100-104 dB
- Jackhammer: 112 dB
- Handheld electric mixer: 65 dB
- Kitchen exhaust fan: 69-71 dB
- Washing machine: 75 dB
- Smoke detectors: 75-85 dB
- Vacuum: 84-89 dB
No, we're not advocating the return of push mowers and washboards, but we do want you to be cognizant about the type of noise your ears are exposed to and how to protect your hearing from NIHL. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), more than 26 million Americans experience hearing loss as a result of prolonged exposure to excessive noise. The good news is, NIHL is 100 percent preventable.
Of course, the best way to protect your hearing this spring cleaning season is to hire someone else to do the work, but we all know that's not always possible. Instead, make a trip to your local drugstore and invest in a set of inexpensive foam earplugs or visit a sporting goods store and purchase a good set of sound-reducing earmuffs.
If you use hearing aids, check with your hearing aid center or hearing aid manufacturer to see if your model has memory settings that you can program while you're operating noisy lawn equipment or household appliances. If you need another level of hearing protection, consider purchasing a set of good earmuffs to wear over your hearing aids.