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Decibels (dB) of Sound

Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). In general, the louder the sound, the higher the dB.

Type of Sound

Weakest sound heard

Whisper

Normal talking

Average radio

Busy street

 

Repeated Exposures > 85 can lead to hearing loss

Hair dryer

Lawnmower

Subway train

Rock concert

Chain saw

 

Ear pain begins at 125 dB

Jet take-off

 

One time exposure >140 dB can cause permanent hearing loss

Siren (at 100 feet)

Firearms

Loudest tone the ear can hear

db

0

30

60-70

75

80

 

 

 

90

90

95

110-120

120

 

 

135

 

 

 

140

140-170

197

Resources

American Speech-Language Hearing Association

800.638.8255

www.asha.org

 

Better Hearing Institute

800.EAR.WELL (327.9355)

www.betterhearing.org

Hearing Loss

People over age 50 are likely to lose some hearing each year. The decline is usually gradual. About 30% of adults age 65 through 74 and about 50% of those age 85 and older have hearing problems.

 

Hearing problems can get worse if they are ignored and not treated. People with hearing problems may withdraw from others because they may not be able to understand what others say. Hearing loss can cause an older person to be labeled “confused” or “senile.”

Signs &

Symptoms

Causes

Treatment

Questions
to Ask

Self-Care /

Prevention

Image of two men talking.

•  Words are hard to understand. This worsens when there is background noise.

•  Certain sounds are overly loud or annoying.

•  Hearing a hissing or ringing background noise. This can be constant or it can come and go.

•  Concerts, TV shows, etc. are less enjoyable because much goes unheard.

Presbycusis (prez-bee-KU-sis). This is a gradual type of hearing loss. It is common with aging. With this, you can have a hard time understanding speech. You may not tolerate loud sounds. You may not hear high pitched sounds. Hearing loss from presbycusis does not cause deafness.

•  Ear wax that blocks the ear canal.

•  A chronic middle ear infection or an infection of the inner ear.

•  Medicines (e.g., aspirin).

•  Blood vessel disorders, such as high blood pressure.

•  Acoustic trauma, such as from a blow to the ear or from excessive noise. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be from a one-time exposure to an extremely loud sound or to repeated exposure to loud level sounds.

•  Ménière’s disease. This is a problem of the inner ear. The hearing loss comes and goes. Dizziness is also a symptom.

•  Small tumors on the auditory nerve. Brain tumor (rarely).

Image of man at the airport.
Image of doctor and patient.

•  Earwax is removed by a health care provider.

•  Hearing aid(s). These make sounds louder.

•  Speech reading. This is learning to read lips and facial expressions.

•  Auditory training. This helps with specific hearing problems.

•  Surgery. This can be done if the problem requires it.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.

 

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