How loud is too loud? When does noise become dangerous?

We live in a noisy world, constantly surrounded by sounds: traffic noise, the sound of construction work being carried out on building sites, dogs barking, loud music, cell phones ringing – noise takes on many different forms. Since the way sounds are perceived depends on the specific preferences, mindsets and moods of each individual hearer, there is no fixed value for determining what we experience as noise. Yet as soon as a sound reaches a volume that irritates people or even causes damage to their health, we refer to it as noise.

Experience how loud is too loud:

What is music in the ears of one person is just noise to other people. The way in which we perceive noises and tones is a subjective experience. However, when can one speak of noise and at what volume does it become critical for our hearing? You will find out everything you need to know about the much-discussed topic of noise and noise induced hearing loss here.

In order to be able to compare volume in different situations, noise levels are expressed in decibels (dB). Note that an increase of 10 dB is perceived as a doubling of the volume level. The sound level in a room can be roughly estimated by how well we can understand people speaking.

For speakers 3 feet apart, the following rule of thumb applies:

  • For noises up to 70 dB, it is possible to hold a conversation at normal volume.
  • At 90 dB, it is possible to hear each other with voices raised.
  • At 100 dB, it is only possible to hear each other when shouting loudly.
  • From 105 dB onwards, it is no longer possible to understand anything.

The impact of noise on body and soul

It is not only our hearing that suffers from noise. Even low noise levels can trigger the release of stress hormones, leading to increased blood pressure. This in turn can lead to aggressive behavior and tensions in interactions with other people, as well as an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and tinnitus. Unwanted sources of noise also prevent relaxation, recovery and sleep and impair concentration and performance, particularly in children.

Tips and tricks for minimizing the risk of noise induced hearing loss

Hearing loss cannot be reversed – once the sensitive hair cells have been damaged, they can no longer transmit any impulses to the auditory nerve and to the brain. Insomnia and high blood pressure can have serious consequences for a person’s health and psychological well-being. To avoid noise induced hearing loss, Phonak audiology expert Daniela-Simone Feit has put together a few key tips:

  • In situations such as concerts, etc., use earplugs and maintain an adequate distance from the source of the noise to avoid damage to hearing.
  • To enable recovery, deliberately take acoustic breaks and switch off all sources of noise (radio, TV, etc.). This is particularly important after going to a disco, or working in a noisy environment, etc. – in these situations the ears should be given at least 10 hours’ rest.
  • Have your hearing checked regularly by a hearing care professional or specialist physician.
  • If it does happen and you experience symptoms such as a feeling of pressure in the ear, a dull hearing sensation or persistent sounds in the ear, you should rest your hearing as a matter of urgency, drink lots of fluids and consult an ENT specialist as soon as possible.