In our 2nd edition of our better hearing blog posts, we dive into noise induced hearing loss and how to truly know what sounds your ears are being exposed to. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can develop from repeated exposure to noise, such as occupational noise, construction, aviation, and even recreational hobbies such as boats, hunting, motorsports and music. Longterm use of headphones for gaming is another source of NIHL.
NIHL first shows up as a loss of hearing in the 3000-6000Hz range with the greatest loss happening at 4000Hz with some recovery in hearing above 6000Hz. In short this means that the first signs of NIHL will show up on an audiogram as a loss of hearing in the 4000Hz frequency. Noise-induced hearing loss limits your ability to hear high frequency sounds and understand speech, which seriously impairs your ability to communicate. Hearing aids may help, but they do not restore your hearing to normal.
The two biggest influencers of NIHL are intensity of sound and length of time. OSHA standards set 85dB at the trigger point for risk of hearing loss when the exposure time is 8 hours or more. For every 3dB increase in sound, the exposure time cuts in half. So for a venue with sound levels of 105dB, the exposure time is under 30 minutes. Wearing earplugs is absolutely essential!
Not sure of what levels of sound you may be exposed to? We recommend downloading one of the many sound meter apps available for iPhone and Android. Our personal favorite is from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This is a free app and it's easy to use. Simply pull it up and press play and it will record and monitor your sound environment. With this information you can know immediately whether you should have earplugs in (anything over 85dB) and with knowledge of the NRR on your hearing protectors (more on that in our next blog post), you'll be sure that you're fully protected.