Spring is coming, and with it comes the roar of motorcycles, weed whackers, lawn mowers, tractors and all the other outdoor noises that emerge from the melting snow. The change of seasons brings a lot of day-to-day hazards to your hearing that you may not realize, so being conscious of your surroundings could be extremely beneficial to your hearing health.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says that prolonged to exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can permanently damage hearing. How loud is that, exactly? A typical conversation is around 60 decibels. A vacuum cleaner can top out around 90 decibels. That lawn mower? Can reach up to 100 decibels.
Vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are obviously loud sounds, but since we hear them every day we might not stop to consider the damage they could inflict upon our auditory system.
To help avoid protracted hearing loss, you should always wear hearing protection when mowing the lawn, trimming weeds, or if you spend any extended period of time around any noisy machinery. Spring time is also prime time for many construction projects to start, and construction means jack hammers, cement trucks and drills.
As noise enters the ear, it travels the down the ear canal and hits the ear drum, which transmits the sounds via vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear: the malleus, incus and stapes.
From there, the vibrations are transmitted to the fluid in the cochlear nerve, which stimulates the sensory hairs sitting atop the cochlea’s basilar membrane. It’s these microscopic hairs that are damaged by loud sounds over time and cause most noise-induced hearing loss.
Sudden sounds can also damage your hearing immediately. Gunshots, explosions, fireworks, a car backfiring or other bursts of loud noises can rupture the eardrum or damage those three tiny bones in the middle ear. This type of immediate hearing loss is often permanent.
Wearing ear protection, such as earplugs or ear muffs, while operating a lawn mower or weed whacker can significantly reduce the impact on your ears. The Environmental Protection Agency evaluates all hearing protection equipment and requires companies to label their products with a Noise Reduction Rating. The higher the number, the better the noise reduction. Read a comparison of some ear plug options here.
The highest rating the EPA doles out is 33, but you can increase that by doubling up with earplugs and ear muffs if you deem it necessary. In most cases. a quality set of ear plugs by themselves will effectively mute the sounds of a lawn mower or jackhammer.
Consider your surroundings before packing up those ear muffs this year. You might keep them handy in case you find yourself too close to the dangerous decibels of the approaching season.