The modern world is surprisingly loud — and our ears simply weren’t built to handle it. Use these signs to find out about the impact of your job to damaging your noise levels.
We’re meant to experience normal conversation, which is usually around 60 decibels (dB); the sounds one encounters in nature are rarely louder than that. Meanwhile, our upper limit is about 70 dB — prolonged exposure to anything above that level can result in hearing loss. And anything higher than 120 dB will likely cause damage right away.
It’s relatively rare to encounter traumatic noise in our day-to-day lives. It is, after all, common knowledge that certain workplaces are harmful without proper hearing protection — construction sites, airport runways, concerts, and so on. But long-term hearing damage?
That’s a bit more insidious. Many of us don’t even realize that we’re damaging our ears until the damage is already done. However, the good news is that with a bit of knowledge and a few precautions, that’s entirely avoidable.
With that in mind, here are a few signs your job might be harmful to your hearing.
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Conversation in the Workplace is Difficult
Do you and your colleagues have trouble hearing one another while at work? Unless you’ve all spontaneously developed hearing loss, there’s a good chance your workplace is a bit too loud for your aural health. Doubly true if the noise not only makes it hard to hear but difficult to focus.
Even if things get loud only occasionally, you may have cause for concern. Consider the following list of everyday sounds and their associated noise level, courtesy of recording expert Paul Virostek.
- Ringing telephones (80 dB)
- Vacuum cleaner (73 dB)
- Noisy public venue (85 dB)
- Transport truck (90 dB)
Your Ears are Ringing
Tinnitus isn’t always a precursor to hearing impairment, but the two do often go hand-in-hand. Most commonly, the condition is associated with damage to the inner ear, though it may also be caused by illness, circulatory issues, allergies, sleep deprivation, and even jaw disorders. Even so, if you’ve noticed a sudden, unexplainable ringing in your ears, it may be worthwhile to look at your workplace as a possible cause.
You Commute on Public Transit
Our last point isn’t directly related to the workplace itself, but rather how you get there. And admittedly, in the wake of COVID-19, a lot of us are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future. Still, if you take the bus or train to work, there might be hearing loss in your future.
Referring back to Virostek’s sound chart, the subway, on average, has an ambient noise level of around 103 dB. And if you’re thinking of drowning out that racket with headphones, you may want to rethink that if you own earbuds. Those have the potential to cause hearing damage even at lower volumes.
When In Doubt, Seek an Expert Opinion
At the end of the day, even if your workplace is relatively noise-free, you should regularly get your hearing tested. An audiologist can help you identify potential issues before they become too serious. And in the event you are suffering from hearing impairment, they can help you determine the next steps.
About the Author:
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.