The Sounds of Summer
by Bridget Dobyan, HIA Director of Public Policy & Advocacy
June 8, 2022
As we approach the first day of summer, a lot of us are spending more time outside and enjoying different activities than we did while indoors during the colder winter months. As with any activity, it’s important to take care of your hearing and ensure you take appropriate steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Below are some fun summer noises we may experience, followed by steps you can take to protect your hearing and enjoy these sounds for years to come!
- Fireworks: The Fourth of July is right around the corner and fireworks can produce noise levels between 125 to 155 dB – the same as a jet engine! To protect your hearing and yourself overall, keep a safe distance from the fireworks and bring along earplugs. Signs of hearing loss can include pain in your inner ear, hear ringing or buzzing, or have sudden difficulty understanding others.
- Live music: Sound levels of outdoor concerts, festivals, and bands can vary but the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum sound level of 100 dB. Steps you can take while enjoying the music is to sit away from the speakers or stage and take breaks from the loud music. The use of custom or foam earplugs can reduce the exposure and should be used if you are sitting or standing close to the stage.
- Speedboat: Boat noise varies based on the model and engine, but generally speedboats idle at 60 dB, revs into the 70 dB range, hits 80 dB at cruising, and 90 when flooring it. At those levels, you may be yelling to hear your fellow boaters over the engine and wind and prolonged exposure may cause damage. Try to limit the time you are exposed to noises above 85 dB and where elevated voices are needed to communicate.
- Dogs barking: Dog parks seem to be busier in the summer months, where Fido and friends are prone to barking as they run around with excitement. Be aware that a dog bark can exceed 100 dB, and hearing loss could be possible in less than 2 minutes, per the CDC. Enjoy a fun outing at the dog park, but consider moving to a quieter location so barking isn’t too close to your ears.
- Headphones: You may be using the nice weather as an opportunity to get outside and train for that marathon or listen to your favorite podcast while out on a walk. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, headphone volume can reach 100 dB, so it is recommended that you limit volume to no more than 50 or 60 percent of that maximum. You may also be able to track your listening levels through your smartphone to help stay on track.
- Ice cream truck: The purveyor of your favorite cold sweet treats, ice cream trucks are famous (or infamous) for their accompanying music. Many localities actually limit the duration and decibel level of ice cream truck music, anywhere from 55 dB to 75 dB at 30 feet from the truck. Ice cream trucks are also generally on the move, so you’re not exposed to the sound too long.
Be Happy and Enjoy!
- Birds: Your average backyard bird chirp rings in at 40 dB. So fill up that bird feeder, pull up a chair on the deck, and enjoy nature’s music.
- Rain: A summer rain shower is not only calming, but at only 35 dB, it’s safe to sit and listen. If the gentle rain turns to storms, it may be time to head inside as a thunderclap can reach 120 dB.
- Laughter: Summer is fun, so you may be laughing more or around others that are enjoying themselves as well. Did you know that laughter can hit 65 dB? Don’t stop! Hearing damage is not typical at this level.
Remember, noise-induced hearing loss is the only completely preventable type of hearing loss. As we all look to enjoy the summer sun and outdoor activities, make sure you take care of your hearing as well. You can learn more about hearing loss and sharing the important message of hearing health at hearing.org.