In everyday life, we perceive different sounds with varying degrees of loudness, but did you know that constant exposure to sounds louder than the average human threshold of 85 decibels damages our sense of hearing? Even just one instance of exposure to a sound that is far too loud for us is enough to cause permanent damage.
It is estimated that at least 30 million Americans are exposed to harmful sounds in their day to day activities. Even in recreational activities such as concerts, parties, woodworking and the like, chronic exposure to harmful auditory stimuli renders us vulnerable to the dangers that noise pollution brings.
Dangers of Loud Noises
Aside from hearing loss and impairment, loud noises can also cause stress. Even when we’re used to the noise of the city, it is still a stressor. Consistent exposure to sound pollution then results in chronic stress. Increased aggression, decreased productivity, sleep disorders and a weaker immune system, among many other ailments, can be attributed to chronic stress.
Tinnitus is also the byproduct of chronic exposure to loud noises, as well as stress. Tinnitus is the condition wherein nonexistent sounds are heard solely by an individual. Victims usually report hearing ringing, buzzing, or clicking sounds. This can range from days to years.
Studies have shown that sound pollution also raises blood pressure, which leads to serious health risks such as ischemic heart disease, hypertension and stroke, among many others.
Electronic Hearing Protection
Fortunately, we have developed electronic hearing protection devices to safeguard our hearing from the disastrous effects of loud noise. Aside from the ear muffs passively shutting out sound, the way these devices work is that built-in microphones pick up and amplify outside sound and then speakers, from inside the ear muffs, convey the sound directly to your ears.
Older models of these devices use what is called “stop gate technology”. As it picks up sound that is louder than what is considered safe, the amplification feature would shut down and resume once the harmful sound is gone. The newer models utilize “sound compression”, which provides a compressed, essentially continuous low-volume sound for more consistency.
Electronic hearing protection is very useful especially for people that work in a plant or a factory, or basically any occupation that requires the use of loud machinery such as power tools or are exposed to them in a lengthy amount of time so that they would not run the risk of acquiring long-term detrimental effects on their hearing health.
Recreational hunters, policemen, and military personnel can benefit a lot as well from electronic hearing protection because aside from the auditory defense that these devices give against the loudness of gunfire, the low-sound amplification is also useful for perceiving softer sounds such as footsteps and the direction of the sound’s source.
Adding to the list of electronic hearing protection beneficiaries are musicians and patrons of concerts and nightclubs, because they are constantly exposed to amplified volume.
Life in the city, with its harmful auditory effects, is practically inescapable for most of us. Thus, awareness of how loud our surroundings really are, its long-term effects, and the utilization of electronic hearing protection are necessary to keep a healthy sense of hearing.