Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss. It falls under the category of sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs due to damage to hair cells of the inner ear. Our inner ear hair cells are responsible for translating sounds waves into neural signals that are registered by the brain as sound. Damage to inner ear hair cells is permanent, which means once they’re gone, they do not regenerate. As a result, sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition.
While certain types of hearing loss are not preventable, such as presbycusis, which occurs with the natural process of aging, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. It does require that we take steps to protect our hearing. For many people, exposure to noise is a regular part of every day life. Folks who work in construction, airports, music venues, manufacturing, and even dentistry, are exposed to levels of sound that could permanently damage their hearing. With noisy occupations, employers are required by law to put in place protective measures with custom ear protection.
For everyone else, there are sounds in our everyday life that could permanently damage our hearing, if we do not take the steps to protect ourselves. Many of us do not necessarily notice these sounds because they are a ubiquitous part of the fabric of our lives. However, it is important to pay attention to noise levels if you are concerned about protecting your hearing.
All sounds can be measured with decibels. Hearing specialists tell us that people should not listen to sounds at 85 decibels for more than 8 hours at a time. At this rate, it is possible to develop permanent hearing loss. To put it in context, a regular conversation clocks in around 60 to 65 decibels, while the engine of a jet taking off is around 120 decibels. At 120 decibels, one could sustain permanent hearing loss in a single one-time exposure. In daily life, we often do not encounter sounds at that volume, but we may be exposed to them every now and then.
A general rule of thumb: if you cannot hear someone standing arm’s length away from you, the environment you are in is too loud.
Power Tools, Lawn Mowers, and Other Machinery
For all of the DIY home improvement folks out there, be sure to use hearing protection when using power tools, lawn mowers, and other machinery with your projects. While people who work in construction take measures to protect their hearing, people do not take the same precautions when working with tools at home. Common power tools that may be used at home clock in between 99 to 104 decibels.
Protect your hearing with earplugs that you may find at your local pharmacy. For better protection, invest in a pair of construction-grade headphones or custom-molded ear protection.
How often do you dry your hair? Some people dry their hair for 10 to 20 minutes a day. The proximity of hair dryers to your ears exacerbates the already-loud sounds produced by the appliance. Hair dryers clock in at 100 decibels, which is enough to cause harm if you dry your hair every day. Again, it is important to use earplugs if you regularly use a hair dryer. Hairstylists are at risk for hearing loss because they are around hair dryers all day; even with short bursts, it adds up. Another solution is to find a hair dryer that has a quiet function.
Music & Sports
Are you a fan of live music? Don’t forget your earplugs the next time you head out to the show. Some concerts have been measured between 120 to 150 decibels. Your proximity to the speakers could also exacerbate the problem. Take frequent breaks, and try to stand further away from the speakers if possible. Music lovers who prefer to listen to their favorite tunes on earbuds must also take precaution. The use of earbuds, with their proximity to your eardrums, has been found to cause permanent hearing loss. Limit your listening to 60% of the volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. Better yet, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones – these block out external noises, which means you don’t have to crank up the volume.
Sports fans must also beware. Between announcers on the speakers, cheering fans, and music, sports venues can get very loud. Like rock concerts, sounds at sports venues have been measured between 110 to 150 decibels. Of course, things do get louder the more exciting the game. Don’t forget your earbuds when heading out to cheer on your team!
Protect Your Hearing with a Hearing Test
At Preferred Hearing Centers, we believe that treating hearing loss helps to connect people to their favorite activities. If you believe you are experiencing changes in your hearing, the first step is to take a hearing test. An annual hearing test gives you important information on your hearing abilities. Visit us today for a consultation.