Tag Archive: decibel levels

Yet another reason to ban electric hand dryers:

Dyson Airblades ‘spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels’.  That said, the study only looked at Dyson Airblades and not other electric hand dryers, like the Xcelerator, which may spread viruses more effectively while assaulting your hearing.  Use a paper towel.

Thanks to Hyperacusis Research Limited for the link.  Hyperacusis Research Limited is a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatment.

The Philly Voice asks:

How do earbuds damage your hearing?

Philly Voice reporter Brandon Baker posed this question Linda Ronis-Kass, an audiologist at Penn Medicine Washington Square, “for an explanation of how listening to music at a high volume through earbuds can cause hearing loss — and potentially more.”  It’s an interesting read, particularly for those of you who like to pop in your earbuds and crank the volume up (don’t!!).

Thanks to Hearing Health Foundation for the link.

Want a side of peace and quiet with your meal?

You are not alone: Diners want noise off the menu.

NOTE: The statement in the article that “[t]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends less than eight hours of sustained exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels,” is wrong in its implied scope.  In February 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted an article on its Science Blog that stated that the 85 dBA noise exposure limit was intended only as a limit for occupational noise exposure and not as a safe noise exposure limit for the public at large.  See, NIOSH Science Blog clarifies difference between occupational and general noise exposure limits.  According to Daniel Fink, M.D., a leading noise activist, the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level for the public was calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be 70 dB (unweighted) average noise exposure for a 24 hour period.  See, Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety.

World Health Organization: 1.1 billion young people worldwide face the risk of hearing loss

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has posted an important article on hearing loss and young people: Millennials, the Deaf Generation?  The article states that a major cause of hearing injury to young people are music players, noting that the WHO “found that almost half of those ages 12 to 35 listen to their music players at unsafe volumes, while around 40 percent expose themselves to very loud events such as concerts.”  Among other things, the article suggests that using over the ear headphones over earbuds could help reduce the risk, especially when coupled with keeping the player’s volume at 60% of its range and listening to music for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

The concern about hearing loss in young people is also addressed by Shari Eberts, a hearing health advocate in her piece, “A Silent Epidemic. Teen and Young Adult Hearing Loss.”  Ms. Eberts writes that “[a] research study published in The Journal of American Medical Association in 2010 found that 1 in 5 teens had some type of hearing loss. This was significantly above the 1 in 7 teens with hearing loss measured 10 years earlier.”  She agrees that the use of earbuds is a significant cause for the alarming increase in hearing loss, but she adds that “the increased volume levels at restaurants, bars, sporting events, and other venues are also likely to blame.”  As someone who has genetic hearing loss Ms. Eberts knows firsthand about the frustration and sadness young people with hearing loss will suffer, noting that such suffering is avoidable since noise induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.  As in the ASCH article, Ms. Ebert recommends steps people can take to avoid hearing injury in the first instance.

This silent epidemic of hearing loss is not going to be silent for much longer.  One hopes that the increased attention on hearing loss among the young will motivate government, business, and individuals to work together to prevent the unnecessary deafening of an entire generation.

 

Turn It Down: How to protect yourself against noise pollution

In “Turn It Down,” Dangerstoppers (Beverly Hills Television) highlights the dangers of noise exposure and its adverse effect on hearing.  The video is very good at informing viewers about dangerous levels of sound and provides tips on how one can limit his or her exposure to noise pollution.  Included in this important piece is Dr. Daniel Fink’s segment on ear plug options for hearing protection.

Thanks to Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, for the video link.  Dr. Fink serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association.

What is a reasonable decibel range for a public space?

I’ve been doing a little internet research to see if there is a consensus as to what is considered a reasonable decibel range for normal conversation (i.e., no straining to be heard) and, more importantly, what decibel ranges put the listener at risk for injury.  The Mayo Clinic says that normal conversation reads at 60 decibels.  Webmd and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA) agree.   But I’m finding that 60 decibels simply does not happen in a public space, restaurant, or store, certainly not in New York City.  I know that New York City (or, at least, Manhattan) is busier and louder than most American cities and towns, but even in quieter places there is going to be a base level hum.  In Manhattan that hum is the sound of lots of feet pounding the pavement, sirens (far away and nearby), beeping horns and other street noise, bursts of laughter, etc.  Fortunately it appears that there is little or no risk of hearing injury if the decibel is reading does not pass 80.  The Mayo Clinic starts the risk range at 80 decibels (“Heavy city traffic, power lawn mower”), while Webmd states that decibel readings above 85 are harmful.  The AHSLA doesn’t identify the exact decibel range where injury can occur, but notes that noise levels are dangerous if:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard.
  • You can’t hear someone 3 feet away from you.
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area.
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears (this is called “tinnitus”) after exposure to noise.

I’ve recently downloaded Faber Acoustical’s SoundMeter for my iPad mini and began checking the decibel reading of a variety of spaces to see if I could determine what decibel range is comfortable for me and what decibel reading signals the point where I begin to feel uneasy or irritable.  Long and short, anything up to 75 decibels is usually tolerable, but once 75 decibels is breached things change.  And if the noise level crosses 80 decibels, I reach for my musician’s ear plugs (they reduce sound by 25 decibels) or go from annoyed to very irritable quickly.  Very occasionally pain may follow.  Of course, the quality of the sound also plays a role, as I find that higher pitched, trebly sounds causes me to feel uneasy at lower decibel levels.  The reason for my inquiry will be clearer in the next post where I describe the guide that I am creating which aims to identify those comfortable, ear-friendly spaces that exist throughout the city.