When was the last time you stared at the sun for a few hours?
That sounds like a ridiculous question, doesn't it? After all, no one would stare at the sun for hours because everyone knows it would cause serious eye damage. Nevertheless, this is the same type of damage that people are inflicting upon their ears every day. Noise-induced hearing loss is becoming more prevalent every year.
Most of us are very cautious about very loud sounds. We wear earplugs when we're using heavy machinery (110 decibels), we cover our ears when someone is shooting a gun (140 decibels) and we generally stay away from a plane's engine when it's taking off (180 decibels). This kind of protection is good, because exposure to these decibel levels can cause permanent hearing damage in a matter of seconds. However, prolonged exposure to lower decibel levels can cause just as much damage, and it is this kind of noise-induced hearing loss that we need to be more aware of.
Anything above 85 decibels has the potential to cause permanent hearing damage. If you're mowing your lawn, you're being exposed to around 90 decibels. Your ears can take around two hours of this level of sound before they sustain damage. Most lawns don't take two hours to mow, so you should be alright with this type of activity.
Football games, however, usually last longer than two hours and noise levels in a stadium can reach up to 120 decibels. People don't often think to bring earplugs to a sporting event, but they can achieve decibel levels equivalent to a jackhammer. Rock concerts last a couple hours, too, and can reach up to 140 decibels. Most teenagers don't like to wear earplugs at concerts because "that's what old people do." Well, if you keep up this exposure to high volumes, you'll have the hearing of an old person.
Additionally, headphones are causing more damage today because: 1. They are more widely used and 2. They are used for longer periods of time. People are listening to music while working, as they're studying, when they're on the bus, when they're out for a walk and even while they're sleeping. If the decibel levels are kept low during this prolonged use, the only side affect would be anti-social behavior. However, even at mid-level volumes this constant exposure could cause hearing loss. Some people put on headphones to drown out the sound around them, so they can focus. At only half-volume, an MP3 player can reach around 85 to 90 decibels. So if you're drowning out the sound around you, you're far exceeding that.
Using a pair of noise-cancelling headphones can help block out distracting noises, while negating the need to turn the volume up. This type of headphones creates an anti-noise signal that will interfere with ambient noise around you and allow you to focus on what you're listening to. Headphones such as the Sennheiser PXC 350, the JVC HA-NC250 and the Denon AH-NC732 can actively reduce environmental noise by up to 85-percent! Plus, they give you superior sound to enjoy your favorite songs. Be sure to check out our review on noise-cancelling headphones to see which pair best fits your needs.