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 The Ear...

The ear is able to deal with a huge range of sound intensity (volume) from the quietest whisper or rustle of grass, to the sound of a jumbo-jet taking off! As the range of sound intensities (volume) which the ear can hear is so great, a logerithmic scale is used to measure the sound levels.

 

This scale is called the decibel scale. So a sound of 20dB is not twice as loud as a sound of 10dB but in fact 10 times as loud! Unfortunately, the ear, and in particular the cochlea or inner ear, can also be damaged by exposure to too much of the energy it was designed to detect. In other words, too much noise can cause damage to the ear and even make you deaf!

Damage to the ear...

Nowhere does the old adage of 'prevention is better than cure' apply more than to noise damage to the ear. This is especially true as there is no cure once the damage has been done.

 

Avoiding damage...

If you're going to be exposed to high noise levels on a regular basis then you should use earplugs. Research evidence suggests that if the noise levels are very high, you may hear things better with earplugs in.

If you block some of the sound out, then the ear is no longer saturated and some of the receptors are freed up to listen to other things.

Try to take' time-out.' Take a few minutes in every hour and go somewhere quiet, to literally give your ears a rest.

As we get older everyone's ears and hearing deteriorate. This can add to a mild ( and previously un-noticed) hearing loss picked up when younger.

This can mean the appearance of a hearing problem much sooner in later life than normal and may be a real nuisance.

Your ears need to last a lifetime - look after them and they will !!

 

Sound and noise...

As examples of sound levels, a whisper is about 30dB, normal conversation is about 50dB, a busy bar 80-90dB and a noisy club can be 100dB or more. If, to have a conversation with a friend in a club you have to shout by their ear, the background noise level must be in the region of 100-105dB. This is a noise level that's safe for less than 30 minutes!

To help work out how much noise the ear can safely cope with, scientists have developed something called the ''equal energy principle'. There is good evidence that the human ear can tolerate sound levels below 85dB almost indefinitely but with increasing sound levels above this, the chance of ear damage rises.

Recent European legislation suggests that 85dB is safe for about 8 hours. The 'equal energy principle' then says that for every doubling of sound intensity above this, the safe time of exposure must halve. As sound intensity is measured logerithmically, this means that a 3dB increase corresponds to a doubling of intensity. So 88dB is therefore safe for 4 hours, 91db 2 hours, 94dB for 1 hour and so on.
 

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