How many days out of the week do you dry your hair at home or hands in a public bathroom? If you are like many Americans, this may be a daily occurrence.  We all know by now that prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause irreversible hearing damage in the future, but what about moderately loud sounds for a shorter amount of time? Are dryers and ears a dangerous mix?

Popularity of hand dryers

According to research completed by The Guardian, hand dryers date back all the way to 1922 when the American Zephyr Company boasted a 36 second drying time with its “warm air towel.” Though they have been around for nearly a century, hand dryers became more popular within the last 10 to 20 years for a variety of reasons.

The first and most popular reason for using a hand dryer over a hand towel is that it is more environmentally friendly. Less trash is produced, and many consumers prefer knowing they are not contributing to deforestation. Additionally, fewer toilets are clogged when paper towels are not an option.

In terms of efficiency, hand dryers can also dry hands faster, and many believe it is a more hygienic way to clean hands. Since 2014, sales for hand dryers have grown 12% per year, and their trajectory is only going up.

Popularity of hair dryers

Statista conducted a survey in which they asked women to track their hair dryer use from 2015 to 2017. They found that in 2015, 70% of women worldwide used a hair dryer, and this percentage went up to 75% in 2016, and 79% in 2017.

This shows the gradual trend up in hair dryer usage; however, like hand dryers, there is some controversy over whether or not to use a hair dryer daily. It can damage or dry out hair, and just like a hand dryer, can potentially cause hearing damage.

Dryers and your ears: Are they hurting you?

Hand and hair dryers create a sound of 80 to 90 decibels, according to Hearing Science. This is louder than a vacuum cleaner, but on par with a blender. While this level won’t immediately damage your ears, the daily exposure to loud sounds can build up over time and cause loss.

With hair dryers, the loud sounds are directed right into your ear, much like with ear buds, and this can be even more detrimental. If you’re a kid, hand dryers are also level with your ears. Young investigator Nora Keegan decided to do some research of her own regarding hand dryers. She examined heights and decibel levels of hand dryers near her home for a school project and came up with a solution for dampening the sound: air filters.

The threshold of hearing loss, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, is 90 decibels of continual sound, which is around the levels of hand and hair dryers. Since these devices continue to rise in popularity, we’re more likely to experience damage from everyday sounds than ever before. Perhaps Nora’s air filters will come to a hand dryer near you—after all, they can bring down the decibel level by 11 dBA!

By: Diana Michel

Sources: The Guardian, Statista, Hearing Science, NCBI, NY Times


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