We are exposed to loud noises every day. And if you live in a big city, there is no escaping noise pollution. Living in a city puts us directly in the path of building constructions, traffic, manufacturing industries, and other loud noises that can cause permanent and irreversible damage to our ears. As if that was not enough, our lifestyle also contributes to our exposure to blaring music at rock concerts, discos, pubs, or our portable personal devices like MP3 players and mobile phones.
The pain threshold for humans is 120-130 decibels (dB). Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss, and the loss is related both to the power of the sound as well as the length of exposure. Here are 8 ear-splitting sounds that we encounter in our daily lives.
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1. Rock Concert
The sound emanating from the speakers at a rock concert in close proximity generates anywhere between 120 and 130 dB. A simple amplifier playing at full blast in jam rooms can be extremely loud and leave you with a splitting headache. Such rooms are sound-proof and prevent the noise from going out of the room. But, what about the people inside the room?
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Fireworks going off at a celebration can be quite loud, even if you stand far away from it. Fireworks are still explosions and can be painfully loud. The sound heard from the sky is spread out and diffused. At the bursting point, the decibel levels of a firework explosion can reach a staggering 145-150 dB! Even tests are performed under strict sound proofing to avoid any ear injury.
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3. Manufacturing Industries
Product fabrication type of industrial activity is a highly noisy operation. In metal fabrication, the cutting, shearing, pressing, and riveting of metal products can be very noisy. Product assembly industrial activity also produces dangerous noise levels. People working in such industries or living close to manufacturing industries can be exposed to noise level ranging anywhere from 95 dB to 120 dB.
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Jackhammers are one of the most common sources of man-made noise pollution. They existed as far back as the 1840s and they’ve kept people living in developing cities awake for a long time. For those within earshot, jackhammers cause stress, anxiety and loss of sleep. Modern jackhammers emit roughly 110-130 dB at two meters – loud enough to put operators at risk of permanent hearing loss if they don’t wear protective gear.
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5. Jet Engine
Jet engine of airplanes, commercial or military, are intolerably loud. Supersonic jets also cause a sonic boom that can shatter window panes in close proximity. During take off, a jet engine can produce as much as 120 dB, which is too much for the human ear to handle. Again, people living near airports are most vulnerable to constant aircraft engine noise.
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6. Portable Music Devices
Personal music players and mobile phones are popular, especially among youngsters, who are losing their hearing at alarming rates due to excessive noise exposure from portable stereo earphones. These devices are potentially dangerous because, if used improperly, they can cause permanent hearing loss. When exposed to sounds greater than 90 dB for an average of eight hours per day, hearing loss is almost guaranteed. Rock legend Pete Townshend, guitarist in the classic rock band The Who, has hearing loss from using earphones. Though his band was known for its earsplitting performances, his hearing loss was irreversibly damaged by years of using studio earphones.
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7. Traffic Junctions
In all developing countries, traffic noise is a major cause of noise pollution and has become a permanent part of urban and sub-urban life. One one hand, vehicle engines cause noise pollution, while incessant use of blaring horns add to the cacophony. In some Southeast Asian countries, where population and vehicular growth is rampant, noise level at major traffic intersections can exceed 120 dB!
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8. Discos And Pubs
Visitors, staff, and DJs at pubs, clubs, and discos often complain about a ringing sensation in their ears that may take several days to recover. The exposure of employees to noise levels depend on the volume of music played, the duration and proximity of the noise source. While pub and discotheque staff are subjected to almost 100 dB of noise regularly, people on the dance floor are exposed to up to 110-115 dB of noise.
Effects Of Noise Pollution On Human Ear
A common negative effect of loud noise on human ears is permanent hearing loss. If the sound is loud enough, it can dislodge the tiny bones of the middle ear. The tiny hair cells lining this fluid-filled chamber can be damaged as the loud sound reaches the inner ear. Hair cells damaged by loud sound cannot send the impulse to the brain for interpretation. Once the hair cells are damaged, there is no treatment to repair them.
Other Physical Problems Caused By Loud Noise
- High blood pressure and hypertension
- Hearing impairment
- Increased or abnormal heart rate
- Ischemic heart disease
- Upset stomach
- Insomnia, annoyance and difficulty in sleeping even after the noise stops
- Disruption of the development of a baby before birth
While some types noise pollution are impossible to avoid, most can be staved off by taking simple precautions. Ensure that your ears are covered with ear muffs or ear plugs during exposure to loud noise levels to prevent permanent damage to the ears. Sometimes, a piece of cotton plugged into the ears will do the trick. Since children are most vulnerable to high decibel noises, keeping them insulated against such noise is critical to keep their sense of hearing healthy for years to come.