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If you are 65 years of age or older, there is a one and three chance that you have hearing loss. However, hearing loss is not an inevitable part of aging. There are many things you can do now to lower the risk of hearing loss later in life. Some of these include a healthy diet, regular exercise, monitoring your medications, and of course your exposure to sound.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is one of the most common causes of permanent hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately one in five adults ages 20 to 69 has suffered permanent damage to their hearing from exposure to loud noise. The most common place people are exposed to noise regularly, however, almost half of those with NIHL is reported to not have noisy jobs. This means that the noise exposure was regularly coming from other causes and locations besides work.
How Noise Affects the Ears
We hear with our ears but the cycle is not fully completed until the audio signal arrives in our brain. However, when sounds pass a threshold of safe listening, the tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia are damaged, impeding the delivery to the auditory cortex. To this point stereocilia cannot be repaired, making it important to protect your ears from noise exposure whenever you can.
Knowing When You are Exposed
Sound is measured in decibels and any decibel reading surpassing 85dB can cause damage. It is not just the level of exposure but the length. It takes a consistent exposure to 85dB for eight hours or more to cause NIHL, making the workplace with an eight-hour sift an unfortunately perfect circumstance to suffer hearing loss. However, as the decibels rise the time it takes to cause damage quickly shrinks. At 90 dB such as the level of home lawnmowers, power tools, blenders, or hair dryers, can damage your ears in a little under an hour. At 100 dB it only takes 15 minutes so it’s important to know your level of exposure so you can be prepared. If you must raise your voice to speak over sound, then it’s likely that you are experiencing dangerous levels of noise. To be sure, however, you can usually measure the sound level of your environment using a decibel reader app on your phone.
Unexpected Sources of NIHL
Here are some common sources of loud noise that people often encounter out of the workplace which can contribute to significant hearing damage:
Gas-powered machines: If you have a yard then you might find you spend more time than you may have even expected outside, mowing the lawn, blowing the leaves, and even snow. Over time this can add up. Most gas-powered lawnmowers easily reach 85dB while leaf and snow blowers can reach as high as 100dB. It is important to be prepared and always wear hearing protection whenever you engage in these activities.
Live music: It’s a common understanding that a rock or pop concert is a major cause of NIHL with decibel levels that potentially reach between 112 -127dB. This level of sound has the potential to damage hearing in less than a minute. However, it is not just the expected amplified music that puts your hearing at risk. Even live classical music can get loud enough to damage your hearing. The moral is enjoying your music – but do it safely with hearing protection. Foam or fitted earplugs are discrete and can make a world of difference in protecting your ears for years to come.
Hunting or target shooting: If you enjoy this sport, it is important to do it safely. A single gunshot blast can damage your hearing significantly with decibels ranging from 140-175 dB. This is unfortunately why so many veterans suffer from hearing loss making it one of the most common chronic health complaints.
Listening to music with headphones: Perhaps the reason more and more people of a younger generation are suffering from hearing loss may solely be attributed to personal listening devices such as headphones and earbuds These devices can generate decibel levels as high as 110dB for hours on end. As a rule of thumb keep the volume below 60% of the potential and take listening breaks every hour to give your ears a rest. You can also invest in noise-canceling headphones, so you won’t be tempted to turn up the sound to block out other ones.
Addressing a Loss
If you suspect that you have a hearing loss don’t put it off. The longer you wait the worse associated symptoms such as depression, isolation, and cognitive decline can become. Experience healthier hearing by scheduling a hearing consultation with us today!