It’s the New Year, which for the majority of us means pledging to eat better, exercise more, and save more money. But we might consider adding to this list the resolution to preserve our hearing.
In 2016, we read an abundance of reports regarding the growing epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has warned us that billions of people are at risk from direct exposure to loud noise volumes at work, at home, and during leisure activities.
We also found out that even teens are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1990s.
The bottom line is that our hearing can be compromised at work, while attending live shows, and even at home through the use of earbuds and headphones played at elevated volumes.
This year, let’s all get started on the right track by making some simple resolutions to protect and maintain our hearing health.
1. Know how loud is too loud
First of all, 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 along with the risk of hearing injury.
Here’s a list of sounds with their matching decibel levels. Keep in mind that any sound above 85 decibels can potentially damage your hearing with continued 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 maximum 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 two times 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 influenced by three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the amount of time subjected to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.
That means, generally speaking, there are three ways you can guard against hearing injury from exposure to loud noise:
- Limit the volume with the use of earplugs (or by lowering 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 far as possible (e.g. not standing directly in front of the speakers during a rock concert).
The following are some other tips to protect your hearing:
- Utilize 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.
- Check with your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk profession.
- Wear hearing protection at noisy venues and during loud activities. Budget friendly foam earplugs are obtainable at your local pharmacy, and custom earplugs are available from your local hearing specialist.
- Purchase noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block external sound so you can listen to the music at decreased volumes.
- Purchase musicians plugs, a special kind of earplug that reduces volume without creating the dull sound of foam earplugs.
3. Know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss
Hearing loss occurs when the nerve cells of the inner ear are injured. The following are a few of the signs of hearing loss to look for immediately after exposure to loud sounds:
- Ringing in the ears, which is stands for tinnitus.
- The feeling of “fullness” in your ears.
- Difficulty comprehending speech, where everything sounds muffled.
Those are a few of the signs of hearing damage immediately after exposure. Here are the signs of permanent hearing loss:
- Asking others to repeat themselves frequently, or regularly misunderstanding what people are saying.
- Having difficulty following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words and phrases.
- Turning the television or radio volume up to the level where others notice.
- Thinking that other people are constantly mumbling.
- Having difficulty hearing on the phone.
Most often, your friends or family members will be the first to detect your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush this off, but in our experience, if someone is told they have hearing loss by a family member, chances are good that they do.
4. Get a hearing test
Finally, it’s important to get a hearing test, for two 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 contrast future hearing tests.
Second, if the hearing test does display hearing loss, you can work together with your hearing care professional to select the ideal hearing plan, which usually includes hearing aids. And with modern-day technology, you can restore your hearing and improve almost every aspect of your life.