Photo credit: ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

What noises cause hearing loss? That’s a good question, one that many people have asked, and until now guidance about this from the federal government wasn’t clear.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has said “[k]now which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 dBA),” implying that any and all noises up to 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) are safe for hearing. But that doesn’t seem quite right. For one thing, at 85 dBA occupational noise exposure, an employer is mandated to implement a hearing conservation program.

Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its information for the public. We agree 100% with the CDC’s statement that “[n]oise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.”

As I have been saying for some time now, “If it sounds loud, it’s too loud.”

You don’t need a sound level meter app on your smart phone, although the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health offers an excellent one for free.

If you can’t carry on a normal conversation at the usual American social distance of 3-to-4 feet, ambient noise is above 75 dBA and your hearing is at risk.

Turn down the volume, insert ear plugs, or leave the noisy environment.