by Rachel Ersoff, audiologist
It is common knowledge that exposing your ears to excessive noise is harmful, but how much is too much? The Occupational Safe and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the US federal agency charged with enforcing safe and health legislation, has created guidelines for this question in the workplace. OSHA’s noise exposure limit is 90 dB for all workers for an 8 hour day. 90 dB is like listening to a loud hair dryer. Keep in mind, the louder the noise, the less exposure a person can take before it causes damage. According to OSHA, if noise increases by 5 dB, the time limit for exposure decreases by half. So 95 dB can only be tolerated for 4 hours, 100 dB for 2 hours, and so on, by OSHA standards.
Not many of us measure the sound we are exposed to on a daily basis. If you do want to, the tool to use is called a sound level meter(SLM), and most smart phones have access to a free SLM application that are quite accurate.
For the rest of us, OSHA provides some tips for identifying when sounds are too loud. You might be experiencing harmful noise exposure if: you hear ringing or humming in your ears after exposure, you have to shout to be heard by someone an arm’s length away, or you experience temporary hearing loss after exposure.
Protect your ears with some ear plugs from a pharmacy a custom product if you know you will regularly be exposed. Everyday tasks such as mowing the lawn, using power tools, blow drying hair, or even listening to music with ear buds can be harmful. If you think you may have damaged your hearing, make an appointment as soon as possible with an ear, nose, and throat specialist at SWENT. Call (505)982-4848.