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It’s October, and that means it’s Protect Your Hearing Month! We’re joining audiologists and health professionals around the country to raise awareness about hearing loss and what you can do to protect your hearing.
Exposure to loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss. And it’s preventable! Protecting your hearing can reduce your risk of hearing loss. Here’s how.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. When your ears are exposed to dangerously loud sounds, the cells in the inner ear can be damaged. Then these cells stop sending signals to the brain, and you’ll experience hearing loss in certain pitches. For example, you may have a hard time hearing high-pitched sounds at a low volume.
You’ll also notice that it’s much harder to follow conversations in places with background noise. When your ears and brain aren’t getting the full picture of the sounds around you, it’s more difficult to figure out which sounds are distracting background sounds, and which sounds are important speech sounds. Your brain has a hard time filtering out the background noise, so you might hear background noise and speech sounds at the same volume, making it much harder to follow the conversation.
What Sounds Cause Hearing Loss?
Loud sounds are everywhere. You don’t have to be a construction worker or a musician to risk noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, many of the sounds you hear every day could be putting a strain on your ears. Here are some common sounds that can damage your hearing:
- City traffic – 80 to 85 decibels (dB)
- Leaf blowers and lawnmowers – 85 to90 dB
- Motorcycle or ATV – 90 to 95 dB
- Subway train – 90 to 100 dB
- Sports event or concert 100 -110 dB
- Listening to music with earbuds – up to 110 dB
- Standing near emergency sirens – 120 dB
- Shooting at a gun range – 140 dB
- Popping a balloon – 150 dB
These are just a few examples of sounds that can damage your hearing. If you’re exposed to sounds around 85 dB, your ears are under a lot of strain. Hearing loss can happen in a few hours. Exposure to sounds of 100 dB can lead to hearing loss in just a few minutes. Finally, sounds louder than 120 dB can cause damage in just seconds.
How Loud Is Your Environment?
A great way to measure the volume of the sounds in your environment is with a decibel reader. You can download a free decibel reader on your smartphone. This lets you measure sounds with just the touch of a button.
You can also use this handy rule of thumb: try talking to the person beside you. Do you have to shout or yell for them to hear you? Then the sounds around you are louder than 85 dB and you could be harming your ears.
How to Protect Your Hearing
Remember that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. You can take a few simple steps to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss!
Leave the Noise
One way to protect your hearing is to leave a noisy environment. If you’re at a concert, in a noisy restaurant or bar, or standing near a construction site, leave the area. Go somewhere quieter to protect your ears.
If you’re listening to music with earbuds, turn down the volume! This protects your ears and can prevent hearing loss.
Wear Hearing Protection
Obviously leaving the noise isn’t always an option. If you work in a noisy environment or have tickets to a show you can’t just leave. When you’re somewhere with a dangerously loud noise, wear hearing protection.
Foam or wax earplugs are lightweight and easy to wear. They’ll block some of the sounds and reduce the overall volume of the sounds reaching your ears. Earmuffs provide even more protection. They’re perfect for long days on the job site, and they’ll reduce sounds to safe levels.
Test Your Hearing
Do you think you may have hearing loss? Book a hearing test to find out more about your hearing health. If you’re not hearing clearly, we’ll help you find a pair of hearing aids that fit seamlessly into your life and help you hear all the sounds you’ve been missing.