Preventing Hearing Loss
Hearing Loss Prevention
Over 31 million Americans are suffering from some type of hearing loss. While some of this hearing loss is associated with age-related changes, many people are being exposed to too much loud noise, which is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. It is not just pure volume, but also the amount of time you listen to the loud noise that can damage the hearing cells. The majority of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65!
HOW LOUD DOES SOUND HAVE TO BE TO AFFECT YOUR HEARING? Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). Any sound over 85 dB for extended periods of time can cause permanent hearing loss. Very loud sounds from 90 -110 decibels can become dangerous if you are exposed to them for over 30 minutes. Lawnmowers, power tools, blenders and hair dryers all are capable of emitting sounds as loud as 90 dB. Snowmobiles and MP3 players at full volume can be as loud as 100 db. Concerts, sporting events and car horns can reach 110 dB. Sounds that are extremely loud (jet planes taking off, jackhammers) can be dangerous within a period of 30 SECONDS. Fireworks and gunshots are examples of extremely dangerous sound levels and can permanently damage your hearing in an instant.
Loud noises damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. This damage can result in permanent hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing or a funny sound in the ear). Some of the warning signs that you might experience if exposed to loud noise are:
- Difficulty hearing someone three feet away
- Pain, ringing, or buzzing in your ears after leaving a noisy area
- Muffled hearing after being in a noisy area
- Hearing people talk but can’t always understand what they are saying
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR HEARING? Wear ear plugs or some type of ear protection when using loud equipment (i.e. leaf blowers, lawn mowers). Turn the volume down or buy quieter products (compare dB ratings – the smaller dB level the better). Reduce the number of noisy appliances running at the same time in your personal environment. Limit exposure time to noisy activities. Be alert to hazardous noise.
ONE-THIRD OF HEARING LOSS IS PREVENTABLE WITH PROPER HEARING PROTECTION.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE AND FIND HELP?
Consult an Otolaryngologist and Audiologist to help identify the cause and amount of your hearing loss. More information on noise-induced hearing loss can be found at DangerousDecibels.org, be sure to check out the fun virtual exhibit! Other information on hearing loss can be found at the Better Hearing Institute, BetterHearing.org.