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7 Activities that Endanger Hearing

Girl with Headphones

We live in a noisy world, and it only continues to get noisier. Although the increasing volume of our environment may inconvenience us, the real problem lies in its potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Affected by the duration and intensity of noise exposure, this type of hearing damage usually occurs slowly over a lifetime. A recent report from the CDC revealed that at least one in five individuals experiences hearing loss.

Considering these facts, it’s important to know which environments are the most damaging to hearing, and take steps to both protect their hearing and limit their exposure. The following activities are some of the most dangerous to your hearing:

1. Household noise.

The noises you are exposed to at home, most of which are under 85 decibels, are rarely loud enough to pose a threat to hearing -- until they start competing with each other. If a noisy appliance is running, you might compensate by talking louder or increasing the volume of the T.V.; meanwhile you may increase the volume on stereos or MP3 players above safe levels so they can hear over these noises. This chain reaction still isn’t a problem unless it continues for a long time or – the most likely scenario – turns into a daily routine.

2. Personal listening devices.

This is a big category of concern for individuals, because of the increasing number of iPods, iPads and speaker systems. Moderate volumes settings on MP3 players and stereo systems regularly reach 85 decibels, which can cause damage after prolonged, repeated exposure; max volumes often exceed 100 decibels. Only 15 minutes of exposure at this level can cause permanent hearing damage.

3. Restaurants.

Modern restaurants are designed to be loud, and their noisy acoustics and surfaces amplify conversation, music and T.V. People who frequently patron noisy restaurants are at a higher risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

4. Concerts (yes, even classical).

You don’t have to be into rock music to experience hearing damage – it just has to be loud exposure to music. Orchestras regularly reach 100 decibels, while brass instruments alone can reach 130-140 decibels at close range. Pop concerts regularly reach decibels of 110 or greater.

5. Movie theaters.

Most theater sound systems have standard calibrations of 85 decibels, but the move to digital formats has pushed this limit and some studies show particular theater/films reaching decibels of 98-100, well within the range to cause permanent hearing loss after only 15 minutes of exposure.

6. Stadiums.

Sports stadiums, particularly indoor ones, regularly exceed 100 decibels. In the case of major events like the Super Bowl, sound levels may even reach as high as 140 – the sound of a jet engine at takeoff.

7. Fireworks.

Fireworks displays are a popular activity associated with many holidays and celebrations, but like gunfire, the noise they create at close ranges can exceed 150 decibels and seriously damage your hearing.

Consider how often you participate in these noisy activities, and make efforts to reduce their total exposure, distance them from the noises, and prevent prolonged exposure. People should enjoy a lifetime of good hearing: don’t let a noisy world steal that from them.