It’s the New Year, which for the majority of us means resolving 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 countless reports regarding the growing epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has warned us that billions of people are at risk from exposure to loud noise levels at work, at home, and at play.
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 bottom line is that our hearing can be compromised at work, while attending concerts, and even at home via the use of earbuds and headphones played at excessive volumes.
This year, let’s all start off on the right track by making some simple resolutions to protect and conserve our hearing health.
1. Know how loud is too loud
First of all, how can you know how loud is too loud, and how can you know when your hearing is at risk?
To begin with, sound is measured in units called decibels. As the decibel level increases, the intensity level 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 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. This means that a rock concert at 110 dB is 32 times louder than a normal conversation at 60 dB.
2. Protect your ears
Hearing damage is dependent on three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the period of time subjected to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.
That implies that, generally speaking, there are three ways you can guard 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 far 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:
- Make use of the 60/60 rule when listening to music on a handheld device—listen for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent of the max volume.
- Consult your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk occupation.
- Use hearing protection at noisy venues and during loud activities. Budget friendly foam earplugs are obtainable at your local pharmacy, and custom made earplugs are available from your local hearing professional.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block exterior sound so you can listen to the music at lower volumes.
- Purchase musicians plugs, a special kind of earplug that reduces volume without producing the muffled sound of foam earplugs.
3. Know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss
Hearing loss results when the nerve cells of the inner ear are damaged. Here are a few of the signs of hearing damage to look for directly after exposure to loud sounds:
- Ringing in the ears, also referred to as tinnitus.
- The feeling of “fullness” in your ears.
- Difficulty understanding speech, where everything sounds muffled.
Those are a few of the signs of hearing damage directly after exposure. Here are the signs of long-term hearing loss:
- Asking other people to repeat themselves frequently, or constantly misunderstanding what people are saying.
- Having difficulty following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words.
- Turning the television or radio volume up to the level where others notice.
- Thinking that other people are always mumbling.
- Having difficulty hearing on the phone.
Typically, your friends or family members will be the first to notice 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 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 show hearing loss, you can work with your hearing care professional to choose the most suitable hearing plan, which usually includes the use of hearing aids. And with modern technology, you can restore your hearing and enhance almost every aspect of your life.