Although it’s easy to take for granted, our sense of hearing is precious. Having healthy hearing impacts how we understand the world and communicate with others and losing your hearing can have serious consequences to your health and quality of life. With an increased understanding of noise safety, some parts of life, like loud workplaces, have started providing better protection against hearing damage.
However, when we are left to our leisure, hearing protection is often seen as an unnecessary hassle, even if the threats to our hearing health are just as great or greater. Loud leisure activities like concerts and motorcycling involve inherently dangerous noise levels, while other activities like shooting or loud video games are punctuated with extreme, damaging sound.
Hunting And Shooting
Gun and rifle sports can test your skills and even provide you with a meal, but it’s important to remember that wearing proper ear protection is an integral part of gun safety. A shot from a pistol or rifle registers at levels well over 130 decibels (dB), levels that have an instantaneous effect on unprotected hearing. Hearing damage from shooting is often associated with tinnitus, ringing in the ears, and manifests as losing the ability to hear high-frequency sounds.
While hunting, make sure you are wearing high-quality ear protection before you take a shot. Especially be aware that the ear closest to your firearm is especially vulnerable. Ear protection is especially critical in environments like shooting ranges where the frequency of damaging noise is greatly increased.
Clubs And Concerts
Ultimately, excessive volume at clubs and concerts undercuts the very thing it is trying to promote – the enjoyment of music. With the rationale of making music sound “intense” and “immersive” music events and venues have cranked up the volume, often to hazardous levels.
Rock concerts regularly amplify sound to volumes exceeding 100dB, a noise level that leaves a permanent impact on your hearing after just a few minutes. Similarly, dance clubs with large sound systems expose their patrons to excessive noise at levels that would require hearing protection were it a work place and not leisure.
Always bring ear protection if you’re headed to a concert or loud music event. Even a simple pair of foam ear plugs will offer your hearing a little buffer from long exposure to intense noise. Also, give your ears a rest and take a break from loud sound at least every ten minutes or so.
With loud music becoming normalized, it’s smart to watch your listening volume at home as well. Personal devices and stereos make it easy to normalize harmful volume levels.
Jet Skis And Motorboats
A weekend at the beach can be the pinnacle of relaxation, but if you find yourself piloting a jet ski or aboard a motorboat your ears are certainly working overtime. Marine motors can take their toll on hearing especially in cases where maneuvering and acceleration make engine noise a constant. Jet skis engines aren’t always muffled by being submerged in water, particularly as they bounce across waves, which exposes riders to extra noise.
If you love high-octane water recreation, always keep your hearing in mind. Wearing the right ear protection lessens the impact loud engines have on your hearing. A good gauge for noise is understanding where the danger threshold is. OSHA requires workers to have ear protection if they are exposed to 85 dB for long periods - a noise level comparable to the loudness of a blender or garbage disposal unit. If your leisure activity is comparable or louder than these appliances, you’ll need ear protection to prevent hearing damage.
Much like jet skis, motorcycle riding exposes you to an onslaught of wind and engine noise at potentially dangerous levels. Wind noise at 70mph often hovers around 100dB, a sound level that your ears shouldn’t be exposed to for more than an hour. Motorcycle engines present similar concerns and riding in a group compounds your noise exposure.
If you love to ride, invest in custom molded earplugs to protect your hearing, since cup-style ear protectors can’t fit beneath a helmet. Custom earplugs specifically fit your ear canal to provide the most effectiveness in muffling harmful noise.
Just like concerts have taught us to turn up the volume on our music, the interactive environmental noise of video games encourages players to do the same, especially if they are listening through a home theater system or headphones. Often punctuated by bursts of sound, video games can catch a player’s hearing by surprise exposing it to unexpected noise damage. Long gaming sessions at high volumes can replicate the noise levels at a loud workplace, or live concert.
If you play video games, always monitor your volume level. If your game is hitting levels around 85dB, turn it down to protect your ears.