How loud is too loud? Some common things that can cause hearing damage

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For Randy Bohanan with RB Landscape, noise is just part of the job.

"These are my little pink babies. They help a lot," Bohanan says describing his earplugs.

That's exactly what OhioHealth Ear, Nose & Throat Physicians Dr. Christopher Selinsky likes to see.

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"For a point of reference, 85 decibels is the OSHA cut off and a lawn mower is 90 decibels," Selinsky explains.

Music that's boosted to the maximum can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss. A new study looked at how that's impacting the younger generation.

"The study was looking at 12-19-year-olds and about 15-20 percent already have signs of noise-induced hearing loss," Selinsky says.

The cut off for safe loudness is 85 decibels. Here's a breakdown of what sounds end up in the danger zone:

  • The humming of a refrigerator is 45 decibels.
  • A normal conversation is 60 decibels.
  • Noise from heavy city traffic is 85 decibels.
  • Concerts can reach between 100-120 decibels.
  • Sirens can hit 120 decibels.
  • Firecrackers and firearms can reach 150 decibels.


"Most portable devices the max volume is 105 decibels, so these things can get really loud and over an extended period of time you can create temporary or permanent hearing loss," Dr. Selinsky warns.

Even sporting events can be too loud.

At one point during the 2017 Ohio State versus Oklahoma game, the almost 110,000 people at Ohio State's stadium cheered loud enough to hit the 108-decibel point. That's in the danger zone and at a point when Dr. Selinsky says that ear protection is a must.

For Randy who's been in the landscaping business for 20 years, some damage has already been done. But he hopes others hear this advice loud and clear.

"Just put these little things in it only takes a few seconds and costs less than 50 cents for a lifetime of hearing," Randy advises.

The National Institute On Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says a sign you may be losing your hearing is that you could have a tough time understanding people when they talk, especially on the phone or in a noisy room. Over time, sounds may become muffled and you may have to ask people to speak up or turn the volume up on the TV.

There are ways you can take care of your ears and protect your hearing, like wearing earplugs and moving away from loud noises.

There are also some new apps that measure decibels, like Decibel X, Sound Meter, and NIOSH Sound Level Meter.

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