Noise has always been a part of our lives and hearing is one of the essential senses for humans in our daily living. Even 4,000 years ago in mythology, the gods in the epic of Gilgamesh were so annoyed by the noise made by humans that they exterminated all life. In more recent times, South Korea blasts K-pop across the border to North Korea as a form of psychological warfare. Beyond all this, the noises and volumes people are exposed to have the potential to cause ear damage.
The decibel (dB) scale is used to measure the intensity of a sound, and it’s a logarithmic scale where its values exponentially increase. This means numbers seemingly close together can still be significantly louder or softer. As an example, a normal conversation is about 60 dB while traffic is 80 dB. Somewhat surprisingly, earbuds set to maximum volume can reach up to 100 dB while the sound of an aeroplane is at an ear-splitting 130dB. Due to this, the limit set for workplace noise is 85dB with hearing protection required if the noise exceeds this.
The primary condition associated with these loud noises is hearing loss due to damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. According to the World Health Organization, one in four adults in the United States display signs of noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition after diabetes and cancer – and is most often an underestimated threat. To avoid noise-induced hearing loss, a little common sense can go a long way. If our environment sounds too loud to our hearing, it probably is, and one should be aware of our surrounding noise level as hearing loss is both irreparable and preventable.