There are many hearing hazards in Charleston. While not as visible as a hazy skyline, another type of pollution puts you at risk of hearing loss in South Carolina: excessive noise exposure.
What is Noise Pollution?
The World Health Organization defines noise pollution as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects on humans and other living organisms.
Exposure to sounds that exceed 85 decibels (dB) for longer than eight hours can cause irreparable harm to your hearing.
The louder the noise, the less safe exposure time you have. The problem isn’t just confined to Charleston, of course; noise pollution is a global health threat.
Constant background noise is easy to overlook; we naturally tune it out over time, until it is no longer noticeable.
Traffic sounds, music, television, barking dogs – all are so commonplace they blend into the background after a while.
Noticeable or not, exposure to these sounds on a daily basis disrupts the natural rhythm of life and is responsible for gradual damage of the hair cells in the cochlea that enable us to hear.
The most common sources of noise pollution include:
- Construction sounds (drilling, heavy machinery)
- Airports (planes taking off and landing)
- Workplace sounds (open-concept offices)
- Loud music in or near commercial venues
- Industrial sounds (fans, generators, compressors)
- Household sounds (televisions, music, appliances, lawnmowers)
- Fireworks displays
True, you aren’t going to encounter every sound on this list every single day. But the cumulative effects of a lifetime of noise exposure eventually contribute to a loss of hearing over time.
The Consequences of Noise Pollution
Noise exposure is associated with a variety of health ailments, including the following:
- Hearing loss
- Poor sleep
- Cardiovascular dysfunction
- Child development
- Psychological dysfunction
According to the WHO, noise pollution affects more than physical health. It poses a significant worldwide social and economic threat, as well.
It’s impossible to completely avoid all sources of noise pollution in your everyday life, but there are steps you can take to protect your hearing and reduce your personal risk of hearing loss. These include:
- Wear earplugs anytime you are engaged in activities where noise levels exceed 85 dB.
- When using headphones, keep the volume set at 60 percent of maximum and take periodic breaks to give your ears a rest. For maximum protection, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which eliminate competing background distractions.
- When possible, avoid jobs with regular exposure to hazardous noise levels. If you do work in a noisy occupation, be sure your employer provides hearing protection – and wear it at all times!
- If you can, choose a residential area away from heavy traffic or noisy industrial areas.
Your Charleston audiologist can help give you more tips on protecting yourself from noise pollution.