How loud is too loud that is hazardous to our hearing?

Urban environment if full of noises of various levels, so how can you tell when a noise is too loud that could possibly damage your hearing? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended not to stay in an environment with 85 dB(A) sound/noise for more than 8 hours per day. Beyond 85 dB(A), a ‘3-dB exchange rate’ applies, which means with every 3 dB elevation in loudness, the maximum exposure time should cut in half. We probably won’t carry a sound level meter with us to measure the surrounding sound level, so how do we know if the environment is too noisy? A simple rule is that if you need to talk extra loud when your friends are only a few feet away, the background noise may hurt your hearing. Go somewhere quieter or use earplugs!

How to protect your ear in noisy workplace or environment?

Don’t act until hearing difficulties emerges. Start protecting your hearing now! Below are some tips to protect your ear:

  • Use earplugs or ear muffs in noisy places such as firework show, concert, party, count-down event, construction site etc.
  • 60/60 Rule: When listen to music or watching video using portable devices such as smartphone, make sure the volume not exceeding 60% of the maximum output of the device and the duration should be 60 minutes or less.

Occupational Deafness and Compensation

Occupational deafness is one of the most common occupational diseases recorded in Hong Kong. It is caused by prolonged exposure to noise in the working environment leading to permanent damage of nerve cells of the inner ear, the resulting hearing impairment is incurable. When a person works in a noisy environment, the damage caused to his hearing will be in direct proportion to the noise intensity and the duration of exposure.

The following are some symptoms of occupational deafness:

  • Encountering difficulty in communicating with others in person or over the phone
  • Feeling the need to raise the volume of radio and television
  • Speaks loudly
  • Tinnitus: a constant or intermittent “buzzing, hissing, rushing etc.” sound in the ear(s) or centrally in the head, causing annoyance, difficult to concentrate at work and/or insomnia

For details, please visit the website of Occupation Deafness and Compensation Board.(