Noise: How Loud is Too Loud?

Noise: How Loud is Too Loud?

The world can be a noisy place and exposure to harmful noise without proper hearing protection can cause hearing loss. To understand how this occurs we need to discuss intensity and duration, the two main factors involved in noise-induced hearing loss. Intensity is the decibel level of the noise (how loud it is), measured in dB(A).  Duration is the length of time the ears are exposed to the level of noise.

The maximum level of noise exposure that is considered “safe” over an 8-hour workday in Ontario is 85 dB(A). If the noise reaches above this level you are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. As the decibels or intensity of the noise increases, the length of time or duration the ears can be exposed to this level of noise decreases. We are ‘exchanging’ the loudness for the duration of listening. This rate of exchange is 3 dB(A), so for every 3 dB increase in loudness, the maximum safe level decreases by half! To further explain, if the intensity of noise is 85 dB(A), the allowable duration of exposure is 8 hours; however, if the level is 88 dB(A), the permitted exposure time decreases to 4 hours and at 91 dB(A) the exposure time is only 2 hours, and so on. For reference, a normal conversation is 65 dB, a lawnmower is 90 dB and a chainsaw is 110 dB.

Noise exposure is not limited to the workplace. Listening to music, snowblowing, using power tools, attending concerts, etc. can all be harmful. Remember it is the loudness and the duration of the noise that is most important; the longer the exposure at high levels, the greater the damage.

Using proper hearing protection will reduce the intensity of the noise, therefore, allow for longer exposure (click here for more information). It will also reduce the risk of developing a permanent hearing loss. Custom earplugs exist for a variety of applications including but not limited to: hunting, musicians, industrial settings, and construction. We offer all kinds of custom hearing protection at Culford Family Hearing.

If you have been exposed to noise through your workplace or through military exposure, you may be able to initiate a claim through the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) or Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). If you feel you may have a noise-induced hearing loss, it is important to have a hearing test. Our audiologist, Curt Culford, is a registered service provider for both the WSIB and VAC. He can help you with a claim and will work with you the throughout the entire process. Come in for a visit to learn more about your options.

Our goal is to help you hear what is important to you.

Contact Info:

Curt Culford, Audiologist and Owner

Culford Family Hearing, 10 Keith Avenue, Unit 102 (Cranberry Mews), Collingwood, ON



*Image from WSIB*