How Urban Living Can Affect Your Ears

May 29, 2018 8:27 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Over 83% of the U.S. population now lives in urban areas – that is more than 270 million people, and it continues to rise every year! It makes sense – living urban is more convenient, there is less distance to commute and greater access to goods and services. One of the draws of city life is its lively nature – pretty lights, busy streets and restaurants open late into the night. Yet the quality of life in a city may not be as high as you hoped, especially when it comes down to aspects of your health.

All of those things that make a city lively also create a lot of noise. The choice to live in an urban environment means the sounds of traffic, horns, sirens, and people at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately for our ears, that noise is having a very big impact on urban residents as we are regularly being subject to noise that is far beyond what is considered safe. How do we know what is safe? Sound is measured using decibels (dB). A regular conversation usually rings in at about 60dB, which our ears have no trouble with. It only becomes damaging when we are exposed to noise greater than 85dB, because it then puts too much pressure on the hair cells in our inner ear which damages or kills them. Unfortunately, once they are dead, these cells can’t regenerate, which means that the hearing loss is permanent.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a very real danger of living in an urban environment. In some cases, it is a one-time loud event like a concert, but constant exposure over time at home or at work also has an effect. To put some perspective on it, the sound of a busy street regularly rings in at least at 90dB. a garbage truck sounds in at 100dB, horns at 110dB, and sirens at 120dB. Imagine the noise levels when all of those are going on at once! All of this is bad news for the health of our ears, and also bad for our bodies in other ways. That noise also manifests itself in loss of sleep, stress, increased blood pressure and a strain on our hearts. However, knowing about the risks is the first step of the battle and now that we know how detrimental urban noise can be, what can we do about it?

There are some easy ways that you can make these sounds less damaging. The first is to create sound barriers and more peaceful areas. Planting greenery, especially close together, can create effective noise barriers which actually reduce some of the noise from traveling to you. If you have a yard or balcony consider shrubbery like cedars to create this barrier. If you are looking to relocate, choose a city or neighborhood with more parks, trees, and green spaces. Use noise cancelling headphones with your own quiet music to help eliminate noise and reduce stress. Try to limit the time you spend around noisy environments and regularly give your ears a break. If you’re not sure exactly what levels are safe, there are plenty of apps you can download that can also measure noise around you. If you have any more questions or think that you are suffering from any kind of hearing damage, don’t hesitate to contact the us today!

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