Photo credit: Mark Stebnicki

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

How loud is too loud? That’s the question asked in the Tyler Morning Telegraph in an article written by Claudann Jones from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

We city dwellers usually think of rural and farm areas as quiet, and they generally are, but noise exposure from agricultural equipment does pose a risk to auditory health. Rural recreational noise exposures, especially shooting sports, also expose people to dangerous noise levels.

Jones offers sound advice to protect hearing. To me, the most important is, “Wear hearing protectors when involved in loud activities.” (Since “loud” has specific meaning in psychoacoustics, I might prefer the wording, “Wear hearing protectors when involved in noisy activities.”)

Jones mentions 60 decibels as not being harmful to hearing, which is certainly true, although lower than the 70 decibels cited by the CDC.  But Jones may be right. Auditory damage may begin at 55 A-weighted decibels*, the “effective quiet level” needed for the human ear to recover from noise-induced temporary threshold shift.

As we have often written, if it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and auditory health is at risk.

*A-weighting of sound measurements adjusts them to approximate the frequencies heard in human speech.