Noise has steadily become increasingly more common, but this has gone by almost unnoticed by most people. From noisy streets to cafes and restaurants as well as music concerts and personal audio devices, we are exposing ourselves to more and more dangerous levels of noise in our recreational activities. So what does this mean for our hearing?
What level of noise is dangerous?
A normal conversation is around 60dB. Anything above 85dB is considered dangerous and could cause damage to your hearing. A diesel engine on a truck is around 85dB and exposure to this level of noise during 1 working day (8 hours) can damage your hearing. As noise level increases, the exposure time before it damages your hearing decreases. Below are examples of different noises and the level of sound they produce in dB as well as the length of exposure you can tolerate before your hearing is at risk.
|Noise level||Daily safe length of exposure||Example|
|79dB||32 hours||vacuum cleaner, heavy traffic|
|85dB||8 hours||passing diesel truck, snow blower|
||2 hours||lawn mower|
||1 hour||food processor|
||30 minutes||operating heavy equipment|
||15 minutes||motorcycle (riding), handheld drill, rock concerts|
||7.5 minutes||sporting event, table saw|
||1.87 minutes (112 seconds)||rock band|
||28 seconds||emergency vehicle siren|
||0.88 seconds||peak stadium crowd noise|
||no exposure||jet engine at take off|
||no exposure||fighter jet launch|
How does the Apple Noise app work?
Noise uses the microphone on the Apple watch to monitor sound levels around you. You can either open the app to check the level of noise around you or set an alert so that if you are at any point in a dangerously loud environment (anywhere above 90dB), a notification will appear to inform you of the noise exposure.
The Noise app will be available with the launch of the Apple WatchOS 6 due to come out this autumn.
How effective is Noise app?
Apps like this can raise awareness of noise exposure and damage to your hearing. However, with so many alerts and notifications from other apps popping up on their smart watch, people may end up ignoring the alerts.
For example, the volume limiter on smartphones was designed to raise awareness of dangerous listening levels through the phone – however, many people deactivated it or ignored it after the first few warnings. This could also end up being the case for the Noise app.
The biggest flaw with the app is that there is no advice given on the length of exposure time that is safe before you risk damaging your hearing, or what you can do to help protect your hearing in that environment.
What devices can help protect my hearing?
There are several different types of noise protection. Some are designed specifically for working in noise, such as industries using heavy machinery, and others are available for recreational activities. It is important to get the right noise protection for specific environments to ensure your hearing is protected, and that you can still communicate effectively and keep safe by hearing important alerts.
Over the ear defenders are usually used for very noisy work environments and for children who tolerate headphones better than earplugs. Ear plugs are mostly used for recreational activities by adults and you can get different plugs for different environments. Below are some examples of different earplugs that can help protect your hearing:
Party PlugsThese are useful for noisy clubs and concerts where noise can reach up to 130dB. They will protect your hearing from the amplified music while still allowing you to hear conversation.
Motorbikes can be as loud as 100dB and while helmets protect you to some extent, the noise is still loud enough to damage your hearing. Biker plugs reduce the noise of bike engines, but still let you hear important alerting sounds like sirens for your safety.
Sleep PlugsIf you are a light sleeper or live near a busy road, sleep plugs reduce background noise like traffic, but still allow you to hear safety critical alerts like smoke or fire alarms.
DIY PlugsPower tools such as hand drills can reach 100dB, which can damage your hearing after 15 minutes of use. If you are doing long hours of DIY with loud equipment, DIY plugs can protect you from the noise while still allowing you to hear conversation without removing the plugs.
Swim plugs are designed primarily to protect your ears from water – they are most useful to prevent infections and protect your ears if you are at a greater risk of getting ear infections. As they occlude (block) your ear, they also provide some noise protection as public swimming pools can be loud due to the echo created from the design of the swimming pool area.
Find out more
For more information about noise protection and devices to help protect your hearing, visit the Action on Hearing Loss Webshop.