It’s a noisy world out there. Over 37 million American adults have some level of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the United States Department of Health & Human Services.
It’s a problem that gets more common with age and it can affect your life, particularly if your hearing loss involves speech frequencies. You may not realize that your hearing leads to social withdrawal and mood disorders.
Once hearing loss starts, it usually can’t be reversed. Assistive devices and treatments can help you compensate, but you can’t regain lost abilities. Protecting your hearing is crucial, whether you have hearing loss or not.
The team at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates knows how important your hearing is, and we’ve prepared this list of tips to help you protect your ears. Pay us a visit whenever you’re concerned with your hearing health.
How your hearing degrades
Presbycusis — age-related hearing loss — may be inevitable for genetic reasons. Hearing loss can run in families, so you may have a biological clock ticking down as you get older.
However, presbycusis isn’t the only reason for decreased hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss acts in much the same way, and sometimes there’s no way to know which type of loss you have, save for some circumstantial evidence.
In both cases, hearing loss relates to the health of tiny hairs in your inner ear. These hairs detect the motion of fluid within your cochlea. As these hairs break down, you lose the ability to perceive the frequencies that each damaged hair reports. Over time, these losses accumulate, with an increasing effect on your life.
While you can’t prevent genetically programmed hearing loss, you can reduce the risk of noise-related hearing loss.
Tips to protect your hearing
Noise-related hearing loss accumulates. While single extremely loud noise events can cause immediate and permanent damage, it’s more likely that repeated or prolonged exposure to moderately loud sound levels cause hearing loss over time. Consider how you can protect yourself using all of these tips.
1. Know what loud means
Damaging sound exposure has a time-and-level relationship. Louder sounds need less time to cause damage. Noise above 70 decibels (dB) can cause damage with prolonged exposure, while extremely loud sounds over 120 dB may cause immediate damage.
To put these levels in context, normal conversation is about 60 dB. Your washing machine or dishwasher hovers around 70 dB. City traffic from inside your car is about 85 dB, while gas-powered lawn tools can reach 85 dB, enough to cause damage with two hours of exposure.
2. Control your exposure
If you’re working with loud tools or listening to loud audio sources, limit the time you’re in these environments without hearing protection.
3. Use hearing protection
Personal protective equipment like ear protectors and earplugs are common workplace gear in environments like construction or factories. Concertgoers and musicians often turn to ear valves, an ear plug-type of device that attenuates volume without blocking frequencies.
4. Get a hearing test
Establish a baseline with an ear exam and hearing test now. Often, those losing their hearing are the last to know. If you haven’t begun to lose hearing, you’ll have a standard for future tests.
The head and neck specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates can help you with your hearing test. Call the most convenient office, in Lawrence or Ottawa, to book your appointment today.