How You Hear Sound
Your hearing is a combination of interactions in your ear that convert sound waves into signals your brain can understand.
When sound waves enter the ear, they cause your eardrum and the bones inside your ear to vibrate. Small, fragile hair in your inner ear turn the vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Your brain then interprets the signals as sounds.
Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB) and generally considered loud when they’re over 80 decibels. Your hearing can be impacted by the loudness of the sounds you hear and how long you’re exposed to them.
Even brief exposure to very loud sounds, such as a concert, can cause temporary hearing loss. Long-term, repeated exposure to loud sounds can damage the hairs in your inner ear leading to permanent hearing loss.
As sounds get louder, the time you should be exposed to them drops significantly. For example, you may be able to hear city traffic (80dB) for 5 1/2 hours a day without trouble but you should only be exposed to a motorcycle (90dB) for no more than half an hour a day.
How You Can Protect Your Hearing
There are easy ways to protect your hearing if you know you’re going to be exposed to loud sound levels. Ear plugs, noise-cancelling headphones, simply moving to a quieter area or isolating the environment you are in from sound are all effective ways of preserving your hearing and reducing exposure. Making sure you give your ears a break after extended exposure to loud sounds can also be helpful.