Sound is a type of energy that can be measured in two ways: amplitude and frequency. Amplitude is measured in decibels (dB), while frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). Below we review everything you need to know about amplitude and frequency and how these measurements relate to your hearing.
Amplitude refers to the pressure or forcefulness of a soundwave. Another way to describe amplitude is volume. The greater the pressure, the louder the volume, and the higher the decibels.
Below are some common sounds and their decibel outputs:
- Breathing: 10 dB
- Leaves rustling: 20 dB
- Conversation: 50 dB
- Vacuum cleaner: 70 dB
- Heavy traffic: 85 dB
- Power tools: 90 dB
- Motorcycle: 100 dB
- Rock concert: 110 dB
- Siren: 120 dB
- Jet engine takeoff: 140 dB
- Shotgun blast: 160 dB
Frequency refers to the number of vibrations or cycles of the soundwave per second. It can also be described in terms of pitch; the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch, and the lower the frequency, the lower the pitch.
Healthy human ears can detect sound between 20 and 20,000 cycles per second, or 20-20,000 Hz.
How Sounds Cause Damage
If a sound is lower than 20 Hz or higher than 20,000 Hz, it simply means you won’t be able to hear it.
It’s another story with amplitude. Any sound over 85 dB can cause hearing damage with enough exposure.
This is because, within the inner ear is the cochlea, which is lined with tiny hair cells called the stereocilia. The stereocilia’s job is to convert soundwaves into electrical energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. When sounds over 85 dB enter the ears, it can damage or destroy the stereocilia. Once damaged, they do not regenerate, and the result is permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
You can protect your hearing by wearing hearing protection in the form of foam earplugs, plastic earmuffs or custom-molded earplugs from Southwestern Hearing & Balance when attending noisy events like concerts at The Bridge.
You should also follow the 60/60 rule when listening to music or other media through earbuds or headphones: listen at no more than 60% of the device’s maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Southwestern Hearing & Balance today.