A decibel is commonly referred to when talking about hearing loss. But what is this unit really measuring? Understanding what a decibel is can help you fully understand sounds and your hearing loss.
A decibel is a logarithmic way of explaining a ratio between power, voltage and sound pressure.
Sound is, in essence, energy that is measured in frequency and amplitude and travels in waves. Frequency is the measurement of the number of sound vibrations in a single second and is measured in hertz (Hz). Amplitude measures the forcefulness, also known as pressure, of the soundwaves, which is measured in decibels (dB). The louder the sound, the more amplitude the sound has.
As we mentioned, the decibel scale is logarithmic rather than linear. Every increase of 10 dB on the decibel scale is actually equal to a 10-times increase in sound pressure level. An increase in 10 dB is 10 times louder. An increase in 20 dB is 100 times louder.
Decibels & Hearing Loss
While these measurements may be important for audiologists, it is hard to see why you should care about decibel ratings. Understanding how loud something is can help protect you from noise induced hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss occurs when loud sounds permanently damage the hair cells within your inner ear. This type of hearing loss can occur after exposer to one very loud sound (like an explosion) or continuous exposure to loud sounds.
According to the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders, approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss caused by noise exposure.
Any sound over 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Below is a list of common sounds to help you put this number into perspective:
- 20 dB – whisper
- 60 dB – heavy Dallas traffic
- 90 dB – lawn mower
- 105 dB – sporting event
- 130 dB – concert
- 140 dB – jet engine at takeoff
- 160 dB – shotgun
- 180 dB – rocket launch
Protect Yourself for Hearing Loss
The good news is that this type of hearing loss is almost always preventable.
Earplugs can be purchased at any pharmacy and are very inexpensive. Made of rubber or silicone, these earplugs conform to the shape of most ears. For a better fit and level of protection, consider a pair of custom-made earplugs. Made from a mold of your ear, they are ideal for musicians and hobbyists.
To learn more about protecting your ears from exposure to harmful noise, contact the experts at Total Hearing Care of Dallas today.