Prevention is usually better than cure, and it’s no different when it comes to hearing loss. More than 700 million people around the world have a form of hearing loss, the second-biggest contributor being noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by repeated exposure to excessive noise levels or even brief exposure to a sudden loud noise, such as an explosion. There are tiny hair cells in our ears which transmit signals for the brain to interpret as sound. When these are damaged by pressure waves (sound waves), the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain is also affected, so your hearing deteriorates.
The damage caused to the hair cells in your ears is permanent, which means the hearing loss is irreversible. However, it can be prevented with good quality hearing protection. Loud working environments used to be a primary contributor to NIHL, leading to the introduction of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Nowadays, recreational activities can be a more significant cause of noise-induced hearing loss.
Volume is measured in decibel sound pressure. A jet engine is around 150 dBSPL, while absolute silence is 0 dBSPL. Normal conversation is between 40-60 dBSPL.
Permanent hearing damage can occur with any noise over 85 dBSPL.
Traffic on a busy road can be up to 90 dBSPL, so even that can begin to take a toll on your hearing with long-term exposure.