Home is where the heart is — and where all the noise is, apparently. Given today’s technological environment, our ears have to contend with much more than the typical sounds of little people and big people alike in the house, or even a pet or two.
In the last several decades, the number of appliances, digital devices, and other gadgetry have increased exponentially, contributing to the environmental noise that leaves our hearing susceptible to damage. Combine that with environmental noise seeping in from outside, particularly in more urban environments, and on the noisiest of days, you have a recipe for hearing health disaster.
How Does Household Noise Affect Your Hearing?
Our inner ears house the cochlea, the primary mechanism for transforming acoustic signals into nerve signals that can ride the auditory nerve track into our auditory processing areas of the brain. Tiny microscopic hairs, called stereocilia vibrate when sounds (or vibrations at this point) at certain frequencies brush across them.
Certain kinds of cilia respond to different frequencies. Each time we expose our ears to unhealthy noise levels, some cilia die. When all the cilia that receive certain frequencies die, you are no longer able to hear that frequency. Worse yet, cilia cannot regenerate. So the damage to your hearing is permanent.
So, which of your household noises should you be most concerned about? While a typical day may not be so noisy, just one filled with the soft hum of the dishwasher and kids playing on the floor. Other days may be filled with rambunctious children, crying babies, barking dogs, loud music, and the dryer going nonstop.
Here’s a rundown, courtesy of healthyhearing.com, of the noisiest culprits in the house. The list may surprise you:
- Vacuum cleaner: 60-85 dB
- Hair dryer: 60-95 dB
- Blender: 80-90 dB
- Washing machine: 50-75 dB
- Television audio: 70 dB
- Doorbell and telephone ring: 80 dB
- Garbage disposal: 70-95 dB
Keep in mind, any noise above 85 dB can damage your hearing, especially if your exposure to it is prolonged. The louder the noise (or higher the decibel (dB), the less time it takes for your hearing to be damaged.
What Can You Do?
So, what can you do about it? It’s not like you’re about to revert back to pre-electricity days and stop watching TV, manually wash your clothes, or beat the rugs with a broom. Here are a few tips that will help you significantly.
- Practice keeping the TV volume as low as you can hear it without having to strain. And monitor whatever tv, tablet, or other digital device your children are watching too, especially if they’re using headphones.
- Run your dishwasher at night when the house is quiet and you’re in the other room sleeping. Same goes for the washing machine or dryer.
- If you have a noisy hobby, such as sewing or woodworking, use noise cancelling headphones.
- Send the kids outside. And, if it’s too cold to do so or they’re too young to be out without direct supervision, invest in a box of throw away foam earplugs to manage the noise.