Outdoor Activities that Affect Your Hearing
Your little sister had the right idea when you were growing up: cover your ears when there’s something you don’t want to hear. This simple act not only muffles sound, it can actually prevent hearing loss. And since more than 26 million Americans are thought to have some type of hearing loss – most of it age related due to environmental factors like noise pollution – covering your ears when you hear loud noises is not a bad idea.
Fortunately, you don’t have to use your hands to cover your ears today. Earplugs and/or earmuffs are readily available to deaden environmental noise. Earplugs can reduce noise levels by as much as 35 decibels (dB), earmuffs by as much as 22 dB. When sound is excessively loud, you may want to use them together.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) sets safe noise levels at 85 dB. Here are some instances this summer when you’ll want to protect your hearing – as well as the reasons why.
1. Lawn warriors. A typical lawn mower emits a noise level of 85-90 dB, a leaf blower is slightly higher at 100 dB. Hearing damage occurs in eight hours at this level. This may not be a concern for you unless you work for a yard care business; however, it’s always safe to wear protective hearing equipment when working with power tools.
2. On Golden Pond. If you’re planning a leisurely cruise on a scenic paddleboat, there’s no reason to worry about dangerous noise levels. Planning a day of play on a powerboat; however, is a different story. Noise levels for this type of watercraft can exceed 90 dB. Many parks and recreation departments are beginning to set safe levels for this type of watercraft; however, it’s always safe to take along earplugs just in case.
3. Get your motor running. Heading out on the highway by way of motorcycle can be one of life’s greatest pleasures, as well as one of your ears’ greatest dangers. Many big bikes register noise levels in excess of 95 dB, with hearing damage occurring in 4 hours. Make sure your protective gear includes earplugs beneath that helmet.
4. Take one for the team. Your favorite athletic team will appreciate your support this summer, but your ears may not appreciate the noise. Levels in sports stadiums can register as much as 115 dB with hearing damage occurring in 15 minutes. No worries – you can wear earplugs and still hear the umpire make the call and the concessionaire promote your favorite snack.
5. It’s only rock and roll. Chamber music in a small, indoor auditorium measures 75-80 dB, music generated at a rock concert can measure 120 dB. At this level, hearing damage can occur in 7.5 minutes. Whenever possible, choose outdoor venues where the noise has room to dissipate and stay away from the speakers.
It’s estimated that 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels every day and approximately ten million have suffered permanent noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Hearing health professionals believe as much as 40 percent of all hearing loss can be prevented.
Keep in mind most NIHL is cumulative and takes place over a long period of time, which is why it’s important to protect your ears from excessively loud environments. If you have to shout to be heard by the person standing next to you or notice your ears are ringing after exposure, your environment is too noisy and you need to take precautions. If you find yourself in one of these noisy situations without your earplugs or earmuffs, scout out some safe zones where you can give your ears a break every once in a while.