The world produced the loudest noise of recorded history on August 27, 1883. From the island of Krakatoa, situated between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, the sound of a volcanic eruption on Krakatoa island could be heard nearly 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away.
The noise was so loud that it broke people’s eardrums 40 miles away, traveled four times around the globe, and was felt three thousand miles away.
One of the unluckiest people to hear the sound was the captain of the British ship Norham Castle, which was 64 kilometers from Krakatoa when the explosion occurred. He wrote in his log, “So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgement has come.”
The loudest sounds today
Although the sound from Krakatoa was indeed loud, you don’t have to go back to the 19th century or even very far from your doorstep to find dangerously loud sounds. These sounds can be found today in any place and in any part of the world.
We measure sound in decibels (dB). A whisper is around 30 dB, a standard conversation is around 60 dB, and a running motorcycle engine is about 95 dB. Noise above 85 dB may begin to harm your hearing over an extended period of time, and loud noises above 120 dB can damage your ears immediately.
Here are the sound levels of some of the loudest sounds you are likely to encounter today:
- Lawnmowers and leaf blowers – 85dB
- Motorcycle – 95dB
- Subway trains – 100dB
- Sporting events – 100dB
- Using earbuds with smartphones at the maximum level: 110dB
- Rock concert: 115dB
- Standing next to sirens: 120db
- Fireworks: 140dB
How noise leads to hearing loss
The average person is born with about 16,000 hair cells in their cochlea, the inner part of their brain. These cells help enable the recognition of sounds by your brain.
You may notice that you don’t hear as well as after leaving a very noisy event like a rock concert. In your ears you may hear ringing and you might find you have a dip in your ability to hear. Fortunately, normal hearing generally returns within a few hours or days. This is because hair cells yield more the louder the sound it encounters. This makes them temporarily less effective at picking up sound signals, which causes the temporary loss of hearing.
However, if too many hair cells are affected by loud noise, some of them will die. Up to 30% to 50% of hair cells can be destroyed before a hearing test will record these changes in hearing. By the time you notice hearing loss, the hearing damage is already irreversible.
Your ability to understand speech in noisy places is reduced. Eventually, if hearing loss continues, even in quieter locations it can become difficult to understand speech.
What you can do to protect yourself
Use earplugs. Earplugs are convenient and easy to obtain. They come in basic silicone and foam, as well as custom fitted versions. Carry an app on your smartphone which monitors sound levels, and put your earplugs in when the noise gets above 85dB.
Turn the volume down on your speakers and earbuds. You can safeguard your ears by following the 60/60 rule if you like to listen to music through headphones or earbuds. Experts recommendation listening for no more than 60 minutes a day with headphones at no more than 60 of the volume. Earbuds are particularly hazardous because they sit right next to the eardrum. Opt for noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones if possible.
Take a sound break. If you are subjected for an extended period of time to loud noises, such as at a concert or bar, your ears need time to recover. If you can, go out every so often for five minutes to let your ears rest. Researchers estimate that your ears need an average of 16 hours of silence to recover from a noisy night out.
Do you think you have noise-induced hearing loss? Visit us today at Able Hearing for a hearing test. If you are keen to protect your hearing, consider our custom hearing protection for effective noise protection from all kinds of work and leisure pursuits.