Sound is a vital and joyous part of the world we inhabit, and we should never take our ability to enjoy sound and music for granted. Sadly, studies show that we are not paying enough attention to our ears; hearing loss is on the rise, especially amongst teenagers and young adults who are showing 30-40% higher occurrence rates than previous generations. American National Save Your Hearing Day, which is observed every year on May 31, is a chance to raise awareness about hearing loss and learn how to protect our hearing.
Hearing loss can arise from a multitude of factors, including age, genetics, illness, and noise exposure. Among these, noise exposure is particularly dangerous because for many of us, modern living is noisy—and getting steadily noisier. Freeway traffic, motorcycles, construction sites, emergency vehicles…the urban sonic landscape can be torture to the eardrum. Even pleasurable sounds can be detrimental; we may enjoy rock concerts, nightclubs and cranking up the volume on our headphones, but our ears sure don’t. In fact, prolonged exposure to music at high levels is the primary culprit in hearing loss amongst teens today.
Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear, which is why prolonged exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss. Moreover, noise-related hearing loss is often “hidden,” meaning it cannot be detected through normal audiogram screening. There is hope. This kind of hearing loss can be avoided by altering our behavior and by adopting proper protective measures. Becoming aware of our exposure to noise is a good place to start.
Noise is measured in units of sound pressure called decibels, which are arranged on a scale, with 0 dB being the threshold of hearing and 140 dB being the threshold of pain. For example, the average noise associated with urban living is 50 dBA, while a construction site is 100 dBA. And because both the noise level as well as the duration of exposure to noise are factors of hearing loss, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends no more than 8 hours per day of exposure to noise at 90 dBA, the equivalent of using headphones at a normal volume.
At HARMAN, we want you to enjoy the pleasures of sound and music your entire life, which is why we have developed a wide range of around-ear and in-ear noise isolation and noise cancellation headphones. They use a combination of Active Noise Cancellation and Passive Noise Cancellation methods to offer excellent protection from ambient noise—so you can enjoy your music and entertainment at lower volumes without hurting your ears. Try out a pair of JBL or AKG noise canceling headphones—and start saving your hearing every day.
By Dr. Sean Olive
Past President, AUDIO ENGINEERING SOCIETY
Acoustic Research Fellow, HARMAN INTERNATIONAL