Did you know that October is both Audiology Awareness Month and National Protect Your Hearing Month? Both campaigns were designed with the intent to raise awareness about hearing health in general and, more specifically, how to protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Much like the name suggests, noise-induced hearing loss is when loud sounds damage the hair cells of the inner ear and reduce your ability to hear.
Exposure to loud noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss across all age groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “An estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years and 17% of adults aged 20–69 years have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.”
However, while common, unlike other hearing loss factors, exposure to loud noise is something that we have the ability to largely control. The first step is knowing what activities may be putting your ears at risk.
Common Activities That Harm Your Hearing
When you think about hearing loss from noise exposure, you might imagine it’s caused by a large blast or explosion, as we see sometimes in TV or movies. While these incidents can absolutely lead to hearing loss, for many, it’s prolonged exposure to loud but common sounds that can cause problems over time.
In fact, extended exposure to any sounds 85 decibels (dB) or higher can lead to hearing loss. Sounds that reach this volume and above include:
- Attending a live concert at Gage Park Amphitheater
- Hunting or target shooting
- Going to a sporting event
- Woodworking or home renovations
- Mowing the lawn or using a leaf blower or snow blower
- Riding motorcycles or snowmobiles
- Listening to music with headphones or earbuds
- Taking an exercise class or working out at a gym that plays loud music
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The good news is you can take steps to protect your hearing while still getting to participate in the activities you enjoy. These steps include:
- Wearing hearing protection. Things like earplugs, earmuffs or custom earmolds can help reduce the decibel level to a safe volume while still allowing you to hear what you want and need.
- Taking breaks. Whether you’re listening to music on your headphones or attending a loud event, it’s a good idea to take breaks from the sound to give your ears a bit of a rest. This may mean moving further away from the sound source or just taking off your headphones for a bit.
- Turning the volume down. Don’t go over 60% of your headphone’s maximum volume, and keep your TV at a reasonable level when watching at home. It’s also helpful to choose over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones as opposed to earbuds.
- Get a hearing test. While a hearing test can’t prevent hearing loss, it can detect it early. The earlier you are diagnosed and treated with hearing aids, the more likely it is that you can slow or prevent further damage to your hearing from occurring.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, call Topeka Ear Nose & Throat today.