Household appliances (e.g., refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, televisions, radios etc), noisy restaurants, birds singing…. These are all sounds we hear on a daily basis. But can exposure to these sounds lead to NIHL? No, not if they are within normal limits. So unfortunately, you cannot use the risk of noise-induced hearing loss as an excuse to avoid vacuuming the house for your Mum. However, the following examples have been identified as possible causes of NIHL in teenagers:
- Personal music players, such as MP3s, iPods, and stereo systems (including car stereos). Recent studies revealed that on average teenagers between the ages of 14 and 20 years listened to over 3 hours of music a day. The easy access to personal music players means that teenagers are exposing themselves to high levels of noise on a voluntary basis, increasing their risk of NIHL.
- Rock concerts: Although exposure to loud music may not immediately lead to hearing loss, continued exposure can greatly increase the risk of hearing loss. The risk further increases the closer you are to the music speakers due to the amplification of the sound. The sound intensity of a rock concert can be as high as 100-115dB. As the highest threshold that your ears can tolerate before damage occurs is 75dB, rock concerts well exceed the safety limit. Attending a rock concert once may leave you with ringing in your ears for a few days after, but continued exposure to this level of noise can lead to more permanent NIHL.
- Nightclubs: They may provide you with plenty of entertainment every weekend, but they can do more bad than good in the long term. Did you know that for every hour after 9pm, nightclubs turn their music up 4dB? This means that the longer you stay at a nightclub, the greater your risk of experiencing NIHL.
- Motorcycles and modified sport cars: You may think they look cool, but recent studies have shown that the noise emitted from motorcycles and modified sport cars can be potentially harmful due to their high levels of noise. This means that continued exposure to these levels of noise can lead to NIHL.
Other factors that can lead to NIHL include: excessive use of remote control toys, musical instruments, heavy city traffic, house parties (with loud music) and car horns, as well as environmental factors (e.g., noisy environments, such as airports and train lines) and genetic factors (e.g., ‘tender ears’). The degree of NIHL does depend on how loud (intensity), how often (frequency) and how long (duration) you are exposed to the noise.