If you live in a bustling city or work in a loud industrial environment, you are well aware of how harmful ordinary noises can be. Long-term noise exposure can cause serious damage to your hearing health and may lead to permanent hearing loss. In addition to these noises, alarms for company fire drills - or even a smoke detector in your own home - can increase that potential harm.
The Average Noise Levels of a Fire Alarm System
Fire alarms and smoke detectors identify possible dangers and alert anyone in the building about them. Most fire alarms give off audio and visual signals from a loud beeping noise to flashing strobe lights which warn people that there may be an emergency that needs your attention and action.
In the U.S., most fire alarms can range from 65 decibels (dB) to 120 dB. The average smoke detector in your home usually reaches 85 dB.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reported that recurrent exposure to sounds that reach at least 70 dB can induce hearing loss.
The distance between you and the sound source, along with the amount of time you are exposed to it will determine how harmful it is to your hearing.
Other common noises that can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) include:
Why do some Alarms Sound off Louder than Others?
Fire alarms vary in their loudness. It’s based on the fire alarm manufacturer and model, in addition to its intended purpose.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported the fire alarms that have been installed in public areas like offices, shops, and restaurants, should be at least 15 dB above the average sound level of the surrounding environment.
The sounds of normal speaking voices in an office setting can reach between 50-60 dB. The fire alarms in those environments might only reach 75 dB or more, although a busy commercial kitchen or a large commercial space that has tall ceilings can have a higher decibel range for the fire alarm.
If you have hearing loss, a standard smoke detector may not be loud enough to alert you. It is recommended that you install a smoke detector that uses strobe lights and vibrates. Read more information about this from What Style of Alarm Systems Should You Use if You Have Hearing Loss?
What can you do to Protect Your Hearing when a Fire Alarm goes Off?
If you live or work in a setting that practices routine fire drills, and you want to be ready to protect your hearing, there are a couple of things you can do.
First, you should have a fire evacuation plan. Everyone must evacuate the building when there is a fire. Discuss the plan and steps that need to be taken with others who occupy the buildings that you live and work in. This will help reduce confusion and the amount of time that you spend in a potentially unsafe environment. When there is a fire dill, always cover your ears with your hands or arms when possible. You could even keep a pair of earplugs in a safe place that is easy to access when there is a drill.
Make sure your fire alarms are thoroughly examined to figure out the best decibel levels that are required to alert you during an emergency.
If you or a loved one are experiencing NIHL, or hearing loss that is caused by any other reason, please get in touch with us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation.