The world around us seems to be growing noisier by the day. With airplanes, traffic, busy restaurants, machinery and the everyday hum of modern life, it’s not surprising that health experts worry about the impact of environmental noises on the public’s hearing. The ever-increasing decibels of the world around us put our hearing to the test each and every day, and over long periods of time, that noise can do permanent damage to our delicate hearing health.
Researchers warn that “noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is thought to be one of the major causes of preventable hearing loss. Approximately 10 million adults and 5.2 million children in the US are already suffering from irreversible noise-induced hearing impairment and thirty million more are exposed to dangerous levels of noise each day.” It would be easy to write off these concerning numbers to particularly noisy jobs or environments, but one study didn’t find that to be the case. Researchers instead found that “A large portion of the general population is exposed to noise levels that could result in long-term adverse effects on hearing.” Are you one of the many?
Sounds Of New York City
While the majority of Americans deal with environmental noise daily, regardless of where they live, it is in cities that noise levels are especially causing alarm. Across the country, new regulations are being proposed and enacted to help curb the decibels. In New York City, officials have seen such a startling rise in noise complaints in recent years that New York University is taking action to learn more.
The university recently began a five-year study to monitor noise in New York. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the goal of the Sounds of New York City project is to track sound across the city. How the information will be used is still unclear, but many speculate that it will be used to determine future regulations aimed at lessening noise and protecting the hearing health of residents.
Safe Decibel Levels
While there is still much debate over what decibel level is safe over an extended period of time, several agencies have weighed in over the years to help prevent growing levels of hearing loss in the United States. Some consider 85 decibels safe, some specify 70 decibels and some sound the alarm over anything beyond 55 decibels.
It’s not just the United States that is concerned over rising environmental noise levels and their impact on hearing health. In 2009, the European Union specified levels that are well below any outlined in American policies. According to the World Health Organization, the EU enacted policy that stipulates noise guidelines of 40 dB at night to “protect human health.” During the day, noise levels should not exceed 50 dB for an extended amount of time. Are more hearing-friendly guidelines like these on the horizon for the United States?
How To Protect Your Hearing
Even in a noisy world like ours, there are ways to protect your hearing and help prevent hearing loss. The most important first step is scheduling a hearing evaluation to begin monitoring your hearing health. Working with a hearing healthcare provider can help you identify and minimize any further hearing loss with treatment such as hearing aids.
Whenever possible, minimize your exposure to loud noises. This may include turning down the music or television show, purchasing quieter tools and appliances and even investing in hearing protection for those times when noise is unavoidable.
Environmental noise is growing, but don’t let your hearing health suffer! Get started protecting your hearing health today by scheduling a hearing evaluation at our office.