It’s the New Year, which for many of us means pledging to eat better, work out more, and save more money. But we might consider adding to this list the resolution to protect our hearing.
In 2016, we read a large number of reports regarding the expanding epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has warned us that billions of people are at risk from direct exposure to loud noise levels at work, at home, and during leisure activities.
We also found out that even teenagers are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 90s.
The truth is that our hearing can be compromised at work, while attending concerts, and even at home through the use of earbuds and headphones played at elevated volumes.
For 2017, let’s all get started on the right track by making some simple resolutions to protect and conserve our hearing health.
1. Know how loud is too loud
First, how loud is too loud, and how can you know when your hearing is at risk?
To start with, sound is measured in units called decibels. As the decibel level increases, the intensity of the sound increases together with the risk of hearing injury.
Here’s a list of sounds with their corresponding decibel levels. Keep in mind that any sound above 85 decibels can potentially harm your hearing with repeated exposure.
- Whisper in a quiet library – 30 decibels (dB)
- Normal conversation – 60 dB
- City traffic – 85 dB
- Jackhammer at 50 feet – 95 dB
- Motorcycle – 100 dB
- Music player at max volume – 100+ dB
- Power saw at three feet – 110 dB
- Loud rock concert – 115 dB
- 12-Gauge Shotgun Blast – 165 dB
Keep in mind that with the decibel scale, a 10 dB increase is perceived by the human ear as being twice as loud. Which means that a rock concert at 110 dB is 32 times louder than a normal conversation at 60 dB.
2. Safeguard your ears
Hearing damage is determined by three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the amount of time exposed to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.
That means, in general, there are three ways you can protect against hearing injury from direct exposure to loud noise:
- Limit the volume with the use of earplugs (or by decreasing the volume on an mp3 player).
- Limit the time of exposure to the noise either by avoiding it or by taking rest breaks.
- Increase the distance from the sound source as much as possible (for example, not standing directly in front of the speakers during a rock concert).
Here are some other tips to protect your hearing:
- Employ the 60/60 rule when listening to music on a mobile device—listen for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent of the max volume.
- Talk to your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk occupation.
- Wear hearing protection at noisy venues and during loud activities. Inexpensive foam earplugs are available at your local pharmacy, and custom earplugs are available from your local hearing professional.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block outside sound so you can listen to the music at lower volumes.
- Purchase musicians plugs, a special type of earplug that reduces volume without producing the muffled sound of foam earplugs.
3. Know the signs of hearing loss
Hearing loss occurs when the nerve cells of the inner ear are damaged. The following are some of the signs of hearing loss to look for directly after exposure to loud sounds:
- Ringing in the ears, which is stands for tinnitus.
- The feeling of “fullness” in your ears.
- Difficulty understanding speech, where everything sounds muffled.
Those are some of the signs of hearing damage immediately after exposure. Here are the signs of permanent hearing loss:
- Asking other people to repeat themselves frequently, or regularly misunderstanding what people are saying.
- Having trouble following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words.
- Turning the TV or radio volume up to the level where others notice.
- Thinking that other people are always mumbling.
- Having trouble hearing on the phone.
Quite often, your friends or family members will be the first to observe your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush this off, but in our experience, if somebody is told they have hearing loss by a family member, chances are good that they do.
4. Get a hearing test
Finally, it’s critical to obtain a hearing test, for a couple of reasons. One, if your hearing is normal, you can not only inform others that your hearing is fine, you’ll also establish a baseline to compare future hearing tests.
Second, if the hearing test does show hearing loss, you can work with your hearing care expert to select the the best hearing plan, which usually includes the use of hearing aids. And with modern-day technology, you can recover your hearing and enhance almost every aspect of your life.