The goal of Noise Awareness Day, an annual global campaign, is to raise awareness about the impact of noise on the health and welfare of people.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and the most preventable. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 5.2 million Americans ages 6-19, and 26 million adults ages 20-69, have permanently damaged their hearing from excessive exposure to noise. Once you have hearing loss from noise, you can’t get it back.
Noise awareness: excessive volume can affect more than just your hearing health
There are many consequences of untreated hearing loss. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that noise exposure has a direct correlation to healthcare. Higher noise levels can be attributed to higher sick days, higher rates of healthcare treatment, greater reductions in workplace productivity and increased difficulty learning new skills.
Regular exposure to loud noise has been associated with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a study¹ that found higher rates of hypertension and high cholesterol in people who were regularly exposed to loud noises at work – meaning that for four or more hours a day, several days a week, they needed to raise their voice or shout to be heard. The research concluded that as many as 14% of cases of hypertension and 9% of cases of high cholesterol were potentially a result of noise exposure.
More ways that noise can impact you
The annoying effect of loud noise in your neighborhood may also affect your health. In 2018, a study was published by the International Journal of Cardiology. Researchers found that people who reported being irritated by sounds such as the rumble of a loud car and construction vehicles or horns in their neighborhoods had a higher risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, that can lead to blood clots and strokes.
Noise in your environment can also affect and stand in the way of getting needed rest. Noise awareness is important if you live in a loud community because the noise will, of course, disrupt your sleep. Insufficient sleep and sleep apnea has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, among others.²
How to protect yourself from noise?
It is important to limit your exposure to loud noise, both to protect your hearing and to guard against other possible health effects of noise. According to NIOSH, exposure to noise levels of 85 decibels (dBA) for over eight hours a day may affect hearing. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to cause harm.³
The sound of a vacuum cleaner is approximately 75 dBA while riding inside a subway is 95 dBA. Normal conversation is 60 dBA, yet an emergency vehicle siren is 115 dBA. Listening to a siren can cause harm just after 15 minutes.
Noise awareness day tips for prevention
While you may not be able to change your living or work environment, there are steps you can take that will help:
Wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, when you know you might be exposed to loud sounds. You can even have custom ear molds made that will protect your hearing and fit your ears perfectly (speak to your hearing care provider for details). Loud sounds include concerts and sporting events. A football game with peak stadium crowd noise, for example, measures 130 dBA. Remember, noise louder than 85 dBA can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
Check your workplace. If you are exposed to loud or prolonged noise at work, your employer should provide hearing protection. In addition, according to NIOSH, they should work to eliminate or replace noisy equipment, to keep sources of noise away from employees or to limit’s people’s exposure to dangerous noise.
Be mindful when wearing headphones. Consumer Reports recommends the 60/60 rule: Listen at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes per day.³
Limit exposure to loud noises at home. Lawn mowers, snow blowers and other power tools can reach noise levels high enough to damage your hearing. Make sure you wear hearing protection when operating these tools.
Soundproof your windows. If you live in a noisy environment, window soundproofing is an ideal solution and virtually eliminates most of the unwanted noise.4
Communicate with the person that is causing the noise and explain how it is affecting your home so that you can create a solution that works for both parties.³
Staying on top of your hearing assessments*will help to detect any changes to your baseline hearing.
Not just on noise awareness day, but every day we recommend annual hearing assessments,* particularly if you are over the age of 60. If you suspect that your workplace may be exposing you to dangerous noise levels, read more about common hearing hazards in the workplace on our blog. Click to find a hearing center near you.
1American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2018, Liz Masterson
2Richard Neitzel, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan.