While some types of hearing loss, such as those caused by aging or taking certain medications, are outside of your control, there is one that you can avoid. Damage caused by exposure to loud noises, known as noise-induced hearing loss, is almost always preventable.
What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Your inner ear contains delicate hair cells that are responsible for converting sound vibrations into electronic impulses. These impulses are sent via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. If a sound is too loud, the hair cells can become damaged and die.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can cause permanent damage. Below is a chart of the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds put together by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dB.
- Movie theater: 74-104 dB.
- Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80-110 dB.
- Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events & concerts: 94-110 dB.
- Sirens: 110-129 dB.
- Fireworks: 140-160 dB.
Be Aware of Sounds
In order to be able to protect your ears from dangerously loud noises, you need to be aware of the sounds around you and understand which ones are too loud. We are constantly exposed to noises in our environment, from television programs to construction sites.
There are a number of resources available to help you understand the risks of sounds that are too loud and to give you the tools needed to do something about it. If you have questions, your audiologist is always a great resource.
Listening to anything through headphones can put your ears at risk, especially because it is hard to know when you have turned the volume up too loud.
Headphones sit on top of/around the ears, while earbuds rest within the ear. These earbud-style headphones are the most dangerous, as you increase your risk of damaging your hearing the closer to the eardrum the source of the sound is.
Utilize Hearing Protection
If you cannot avoid a loud sound, the second-best thing you can do is to wear hearing protection. Disposable earplugs are available at your local pharmacy. If you frequently find yourself at a noisy construction site or see a lot of live music at White Oak Music Hall, it would be worthwhile to invest in a pair of custom-made earplugs. These are made from a mold of your ear to provide a better fit and superior protection.
Now is the time to take control over your exposure to noise. This can be by requesting to sit further from the kitchen at your favorite restraint or to get involved in local politics to play a part in drafting noise ordinances.
To learn more about how you can keep your ears safe or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact Hearing Systems today.