Are Your Birds Causing Hearing Loss?
I am not an expert on hearing, but I am a frequent receiver of parrot sounds - typically very loud ones. If you share your home with a parrot, let's chat about what that means for our ears.
I've always been bothered by excessive noise. It puts me in a bad mood and I avoid it when possible. You would think I would avoid parrots as well since they are arguably one of the loudest pets one could share their home with but I love birds, especially parrots. I've come to accept their loud vocalizations as part of the cost of enjoying their presence. However, my love of parrots does not have to come at the expense of my hearing.
According to cdc.gov, "A one-time exposure to extreme loud sound or listening to loud sounds for a long time can cause hearing loss."
Now, you might be wondering what is considered to be too loud. Well, sound is measured in decibels (dB). Exposure to sounds above 70 dB for a prolonged period of time can start to damage your hearing and exposure to sounds above 85 dB (a lawnmower) can cause hearing loss over time. Noise that exceeds 120dB (standing beside a siren) can cause immediate harm to your ears.
Parrots are loud because they have to be to communicate over long distances with each other. In a large outdoor area their sounds are hardly a problem for your hearing, but in a closed-in area - like in your home - a loud scream from a macaw is unpleasant and at very close range can be quite painful.
I've used a decibel meter to measure my macaw's vocalizations in the house and they frequently register above 100 decibels when he is in a separate room and between 110-130 dB when we are in the same room (my decibel meter only reads up to 130dB). This means that each time my macaw honks in my ear he when he is on my shoulder he is causing immediate damage. This is not his loudest - macaws can easily reach 150 dB. My smaller birds can reach 90 decibels when they are loudly vocalizing in another room (and up to 105 decibels when they are in the same room). Just one more reason to rethink whether to bring a parrot into your home...
The underused tool that works for me
I keep a container of ear plugs in the house (I use these), but when I don't mind the bulkiness or the flattening effect on my hair, I prefer to use ear muffs.
In the photo on the left, I am wearing earmuffs (made for protection at a shooting range) that were gifted to me by the owner of the parrot sanctuary I often volunteer at. I don't think she knows just how much I use them. My husband and I wear them when entering our bird room to feed our birds. We don't put them every time but feeding time usually provokes quite a bit of screaming from all of them when we walk in so we protect our ears.
I mostly work from home, so I also like to use ear muffs when I am really wanting to focus on a specific task so that the on and off bird sounds or the sudden dog barks are not distracting.
If you volunteer at a parrot rescue or animal shelter, I would seriously urge you to consider ear protection. Even if you just have one loud parrot - gift your ears the gift of protection.
If you don't care about hearing loss, perhaps you care to maintain your sanity. Using ear plugs or ear muffs when your birds are being particularly vocal, can make life a lot more pleasant (ask me how I know).🎧
📝PLEASE NOTE: Parrots vocalize for many reasons, some of which should not be ignored. Ear protection makes it safer for you and allows you to remain calm when their noise gets to be too much. It can also prevent you from accidentally reinforcing the attention screaming which we typically do when we can no longer handle the noise and we just give in or scream at our bird to "shut up!". All good things, but we don't want to use ear protection as a bandaid. Sometimes excessive vocalizations can be due to an inappropriate diet or illness. It's important to make an effort to figure out why your parrot is screaming and address the cause to prevent it whenever possible.
🤝LET US HELP: If your bird's screaming is driving you mad and you've ruled out medical causes, we can help you address it. Send us an email or book a virtual training consult.