Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This is just some of the noise that I'm exposed to. And that doesn't even include the progressive rock my neighbors listen to every single morning. All this noise is really annoying, but it's also killing my ears. Hearing loss is the fourth highest cause of disability across the world, and it's expected to get much worse. In the US alone, one in four adults show signs of noise-induced hearing loss. One of the main reasons behind that is all the noise that's around us every single day. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the best way to protect your hearing is to limit noise levels to 70 decibels. And experts agree that continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA will eventually harm your hearing. If you're curious about the noise levels around you, decibel readers like this one tell you exactly how much noise you're being exposed to. This one's actually fine. I ride the subway for hours everyday and it's really, really loud. But putting in my headphones doesn't really help. Smartphones cranked (all the way) up are about 100 decibels. This bar is 105 decibels and according to the World Health Organization that could damage your hearing in less than an hour. This chart shows that the louder the noise, the less exposure it takes to potentially damage your hearing. For example, a boiler room is about 95 decibels, so if you hung out in one for 4 hours you would not only be a f***ing psycho, but you would expose yourself to hearing damage as well. One of the worst things about hearing loss is that ear damage is irreversible. Most of us are born with something like 16,000 little hair cells in our ears, and these hair cells act as sound detectors. So when sound waves pass into our ears, they send a signal up to our brain, and then our brain decodes the sound. But the brain's interpretation is only as good as the signal it receives from the ear. And when the hair cells in the ear have been damaged, the brain can't detect the sound or the sound is distorted. You can think about the hair cells like grass, when you're walking through a field and you walk over blades of grass, they bounce back after a few minutes. But when you walk through that field enough times you eventually create a path and the same thing happens with the hair cells in your ears. When loud sounds pass into the ears and at high enough intensity they bend those hair cells, and they can bounce back during a recovery period. But with enough noise over enough time those hair cells get permanently damaged or destroyed. When it comes to help from the government, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon passed the Noise Control Act, which recognized Americans' right to a quiet environment. The bad news is that in 1981 President Ronald Reagan came along and essentially shut down the effort and left local governments to fend for themselves. The problem with that is that local governments relied on federal funding to tackle noise problems. So, yeah, you might be on your own on this one, but there are ways you can prevent noise induced hearing loss. You can wear noise canceling headphones or foam earplugs in loud environments like the subway or on airplanes. You can limit the amount of time you're exposed to loud sounds and move further away from the source of the noise. You can go into the settings and set a maximum volume on your phone to prevent playing your music too loud. So, yeah the problem is bad, but you don't have to take it lying down. One of my favorite discoveries had been this app called SoundPrint, which allows users to submit their decibel readings in bars, restaurants, and cafes. And I've been using it to avoid really loud places.