Cowboy. Sidewalk. Pancake. Toothbrush. Did you need to turn up your radio just now?
These are some of the two syllable compound words the American Speech and Hearing Association uses to determine Speech Reception Threshold---the lowest level at which you can hear and identify speech. Normal range is 0-20 decibels. But frequently our environment is too noisy for us to hear in that range. And after too much exposure to noise, we can’t hear at that range, even in a soundproof booth.
April 27 is International Noise Awareness Day.
The hearing system can be injured not only by a loud blast, but also by prolonged exposure to high noise levels, starting at 85 decibels: the level of kitchen appliances. Noise-induce hearing loss happens with the tiny hair cells lining the inner ear are damaged by loud sounds and can no longer send electrical impulses to the brain. Once the hair cells are damaged, there is no way to repair them.
To protect your hearing and your general health, practice noise reduction strategies. Wear hearing protection, such as ear plugs or ear muffs when doing noisy tasks Keep personal listening devices no louder than half volume.
As the American Speech and Hearing Association reminds us, there is no such thing as “getting used to” loud noises. Noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless but, unfortunately, permanent. If you think you have "gotten used to" the noise you routinely encounter, you may already have some hearing damage.