Teenagers and Hearing Loss

Noise Protection for Kids

Exposure to loud noise will cause irreparable damage to the human eardrum.   Once the hearing is lost, it can not be restored.   One in six teenagers suffer from hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise, mostly music.

How Loud is Your Noise?

Sound pressure levels are measured by decibels on a scale.   A dB reading of 0 is the absence of sound, while exposure to 160 dB can puncture your eardrum.   Imagine a teenager living with her parents at home.   Average household noise will register at about 45 decibels (dB).   Her bedroom noise with rock music blaring will elevate the dB reading to 95.   Her boyfriend shows up at the front door and she hops on his motorcycle heading to a rock concert.   The motorcycle elevates the dB reading to 105.   They sit in the front row of the rock concert and the dB exposure can at times spike to 140 dB.

How Loud is too Loud?

OSHA sets the standard for hearing protection.   Any employee exposed to noise levels at 85 dB for an entire 8 hour shift is required by law to wear hearing protection.   This becomes the rule of thumb for hearing protection…exposure to 85 dB for a full 8 hour shift.   While noise levels might “peak” above 85 dB at the rock concert or on the motorcycle, the exposure levels typically don’t sustain for an 8 hour period.   But it is those “peaks” that can cause the one-time irreparable damage to the ear drum, and this is where the teenager is at their greatest risk of suffering permanent hearing loss for the rest of their life. At the rock concert, the 140 dB is running perilously close to the threat of rupturing the ear drum, which happens at 160 dB.   Again, one in six teenagers have already suffered hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.

So what is a decibel?

A decibel is a unit of sound pressure measurement built on a scale that ranges from 0 (no sound) to 194 (the loudest possible sound).   The human ear drum will break instantly at 160 dB.   The dB scale is algorithmic, not linear.   An example of a linear measurement is a ruler, where adding 1” to 4” would equal 5”.   An example of algorithmic would be the decibel scale.   If an original sound, for example, is measured at 40 dB and then elevated to 50 dB, the addition of 10 dB represents a doubling of the exposure to noise. Samples of random residential noise sources:


Noise Source                                      dB Reading

Quiet Breathing                                             10 dB
Whispering                                                    20 dB
Refrigerator Humming                               40 dB
Electric Shaver                                              60 dB
Piano Practice                                               70 dB
Barking Dog                                                   75 dB
Vacuum Cleaner                                           80 dB
Lawn Mower                                                 85 dB
Train at 100 feet                                           90 dB
Blender                                                         100 dB
Motorcycle                                                   105 dB
Air Siren                                                       130 dB
Rock Concert                                               140 dB
Ear Drum Breaks                                        160 dB

Controlling Noise Exposure

Thinking in reverse, dropping a reading of 50 dB back to a reading of 40 dB is actually cutting your noise pressure levels by 50%.   Then cutting from 40 dB back to 30 dB, another 50% reduction in the remaining perceived noise….or a net 75% reduction from 50 dB to 30 dB.   So a 20 decibel level drop is the equal to cutting the perceived noise by 75% of the original sound pressure reading.   Sound panel treatments that you will find in restaurants, churches, schools, and office environments are then designed as such.   A loud restaurant for example, with a net reading of 80 dB during peak hours will lower to 70 dB during non peak hours. Inserting a sound panel system into the space will hold the 70 dB reading during peak hours and combat the increase in exposure levels.

So How Can You Measure Your Noise?

With hearing protection required over 85 dBa in a work environment, and suggested for parents raising active teenagers, there are free apps you can download into your smart phone and measure your dB levels.   By documenting your results and sharing them with your teenager, they just might pay more attention and grab some ear plugs before the rock concert, before it’s too late.

Once the hearing is compromised, it cannot heal back to its original state, it’s lost forever.   As for your favorite restaurant setting, take the same app on your smart phone and share it with the restaurant owner. Sound panels can alleviate the noise and protect their repeat clientele.   For questions related to your noise issues, call NetWell Noise Control at 1-800-638-9355.

« Back to Blog