Surprising areas where your hearing is at risk

Noise at work is pretty well managed and everyone is well aware of the noise in a nightclub or a music concert where your ears are ringing or sounding a little dull afterwards, but there are other less obvious places where we get what can be very high noise exposures.

  1. The cinema.
    Once upon a time I was sat in a cinema watching a film (Dark Knight Rises - yes, I am that middle aged chap who goes to watch Batman films, tragic) and found myself wincing at some of the noise levels. As I had my meter with me and being a geek I did a quick measurement and found it was averaging around 100dB(A) and up to around 110dB(A) at the loudest bits.

    Assuming an average of 105dB(A) that means you have approximately five minutes until you hit the daily amount your ears can take and start to risk being damaged, while even at the lower 100dB(A) level, fifteen minutes is your maximum before the risk of damage starts.

    There are no limits on what you can be exposed to though as you are not at work and there are no staff in there to be exposed while the film is at it's loudest.
  2. Driving a car.
    I measured my car driving up the M6 with the stereo playing Radio 4 quietly enough to be clearly heard over the road and wind noise, but not loud, (and nowhere near as loud as I would have music normally). This came in at 87dB(A) meaning I would hit the 85dB(A) limit in around five hours. With the music on comfortably this would be more around the 90 to 93dB(A) level meaning hitting the limits and starting to risk hearing damage in about two and a half hours if at 90dB(A), or one an a quarter hours if it 93dB(A).

    High end car stereos, (you know the type, the ones where you hear the boom boom a minute before a clapped out lowered Golf with tinted windows comes around the corner) are often around 110 dB(A). And the music is inevitably shite which makes it even more dangerous. Possibly.
  3. Golfists and their golf bats.
    Hitting a golf ball with a titanium golf racket can give an impact noise of around 130dB. The duration is exceedingly short but repeated exposures to this can start to build up a problem.
  4. Crying baby.
    Babies can hit around 110dB, and also do so at just the right frequency to get into your head and almost hurt. This is no accident - your ear amplifies parts of the sound spectrum which are critical for speech enabling you to hear speech more clearly over background noise than you otherwise would, and babies can scream at exactly this frequency. It's roughly the same volume as a pneumatic drill digging up a road. 110dB for only a few minutes a day is loud enough to run the risk of causing hearing loss. Although in this case the silence would probably be most welcome.

    It is also massively amplified to about 140 million dB on an overnight flight when someone's tiny little noise and poo machine decides to let the whole plane know it's not happy.