Understanding sound

Afraid noise has caused your hearing health to take a hit? Over 40 million other Americans are with you. And while noise-induced hearing loss can't be reversed, you do have the power to protect your ears in the future and take steps to hear the world the way you used to.
How loud is too loud

What are decibels?

The world is full of beautiful sounds—waves rolling onto shore, a crackling summertime fire, the neighbor's lawnmower waking you up on Sunday morning. Alright, that last one is a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. Each sound can be measured in decibel units (dB) and is weighted to represent the sounds the human ear can physically hear (dBA).
Decibel levels

What decibel levels damage hearing health?

If you spend a lot of time in noisy places, you may be wondering how loud is too loud. Can 100 decibels cause hearing loss? What about 70? Three factors come into play: the intensity, the duration, and the distance.

Anything above 85 dBA can damage the small hair cells in your ears and affect your hearing health, either over time or—if it's loud enough—immediately. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss. Screen your hearing for free in less than 5 minutes.
Online hearing test

Decibel comparison chart

  • Whisper / 30 dBA
  • Rock concert / 120 dBA
  • Normal conversation / 60–70 dBA
  • Fireworks / 150–175 dBA
  • Power lawn mower / 90 dBA
Test your hearing loss with an online hearing test
Smartphone safety

Can headphones affect hearing?

While smartphones are often helpful, they aren't doing our ears any favors. If you're using headphones and your phone is at full volume, your inner ear is soaking up over 100 decibels of direct sound. Just a few songs in and you're already making those little hair cells work overtime.

When it comes to headphones and hearing health, prevention is key. Avoid turning up the volume too loud and always pay attention to those high volume warnings.
Assess your sorroundings

What sounds are safe?

In a fast-paced, noisy world, it can be hard to judge when sounds are too much. But there are ways to better assess your surroundings. A sound level meter (SLM) can help you measure noise; you can even get SLM apps on your smartphone.

Keep in mind: Over 24 hours, you should try to keep noise below 70 dBA, and no higher than 75 dBA over an 8-hour period.
How to protect you hearing?

Tips for safe listening

There are ways to protect your hearing health while still enjoying sound to the fullest. Whether listening to music or enjoying an audiobook, make sure to:
  • Turn the volume down
  • Set volume limits on your devices
  • Move away from loud speakers
  • Wear ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs
Be proactive

Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss can't be reversed and can cause major issues, from speech and learning difficulties to muffled sound and ringing in the ears. While we might not always be able to escape every noisy place all the time, the good news is: we can always protect our ears.

So what can you do?
  • Avoid or move away from loud noises
  • Limit your exposure time to high decibels
  • When you can't avoid loud noises, wear ear protection
  • Keep sound systems at lower levels

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