There is so much to love about summer. The weather, obviously. The food, of course. The feeling that time slows down…well, maybe that’s a stretch, but I remember that feeling from when I was a kid.

There is so much to love about summer. The weather, obviously. The food, of course. The feeling that time slows down…well, maybe that’s a stretch, but I remember that feeling from when I was a kid. There are also things to be careful of in the summer, like bugs and sunburn and falling out of trees. Something that is rarely considered to be a hazard of summer is too much exposure to loud noises, but it is something to bear in mind.
David Coffin, the director of the audiology clinic at Ball State University in Indiana, warns that common noises of summer, like fireworks, lawn mowers, marching bands and sitting in traffic with the windows down, can all be loud enough to cause concern for one’s hearing. These sounds are typically within the range of 90 to 140 decibels (the measurement of the intensity of sound). Any noise above 80 decibels can cause long-term damage to the hearing, according to Coffin.
“We are living in a society that gets louder every year,” said Coffin. “Now that the weather is warmer, we are exposed to all sorts of sounds that can lead to permanent hearing loss. The average person will wear a helmet when riding a bike, or a seat belt in a vehicle, but doesn’t even think about ear protection when going to watch a rock band, a fireworks display, or even an auto race.”
According to doctors at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), frequent exposure to even moderately loud noises over a period of time can damage the soft tissue in the ear. These cells and nerves can be destroyed by loud sounds, leaving the hearing permanently damaged. The louder the sound and the longer the exposure, the more likely it will be that some hearing loss will occur.
Using a lawn mower exposes a person to 100 – 120 decibels. A live concert or parade measures approximately 120 decibels. Just a few hours of exposure to this level of noise can begin to damage the hearing, and more damage occurs as these activities are continued over time.
There are a few ways that you can tell whether the noise level in a certain situation is potentially harmful. If you have to shout to be heard above the noise, if you can’t understand someone who is speaking to you from less than two feet away, or if a person standing near you can hear the music coming from your headphones as you are listening to music, then the noise level is probably unsafe.
In order to prevent hearing loss from excessive noise, follow these pointers from the NIH:
Reduce your exposure to everyday noise as much as possible. If your job is noisy, use ear protection and try to stay away from noisy activities outside of work.
Wear earplugs when you know you will be exposed to noise for long periods of time. They can block up to 25 decibels of sound, which can mean the difference between a dangerous and a safe level of noise. Activities for which earplugs are suggested include riding a motorcycle, attending a concert, using power tools, lawn mowers or leaf blowers, or traveling in loud motor vehicles.
Don’t try to drown out unwanted noise with other sounds. Don’t turn up the volume on the TV while vacuuming or on the car radio to drown out traffic noise.
Have your hearing checked yearly if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at work or in your leisure activities.
So this summer, pay attention to the noise levels that you are exposed to regularly. You may be surprised at how loud your boat or jet ski motors really are, or how your ears may ring after the fireworks display. Once hearing is lost, there is no way to get it back. Protect yours at every opportunity.

(Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at  HYPERLINK "mailto:pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org" pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 335-4327.)